Tag Archives: karate

Full-time Person, Part-time Writer


This is what it looks like when my pups decide I’ve been writing–and thus not paying attention to them–for too long.  They aren’t the only creatures in this world to hold such opinions from time to time, but they are the only ones permitted to express it by shoving their noses in my face and panting in my ear.

The last three weeks have been productive on the writing front, though more on the non-fiction side of my projects.  (For information on those, check out Wellness for Real Life.)  But this last week, I set aside most of my writerly time for fiction.  Sand of Bone is, at long and long last, shaping into the story it ought to be.

I am not a full-time writer and, though I daily wish for a little more writing time, I don’t think I want writing to be my sole employment.  I love my other work far too much to give it all up.

Teaching karate not only enhances my own training, it permits me to see and partake in a life-changing process for children and adults.  I watch children who believe themselves incapable begin to realize they can make changes in their own lives.  I watch teens find solid footing while transitioning between child and adult.  I watch adults discover their bodies are capable of so much more than they imagined, that they don’t need to move like a twenty-something to be a success, that training to fight is also about learning to play.  I get to be witness to, and a part of, the process of trust-building.

The experiences–day to day, and cumulative–inform everything I write.  It’s easy to point to a fight scene as evidence of the last dozen years I’ve spent in martial arts.  Less easy to see and understand are the character relationships and personalities.  While I certainly don’t see my students under life-or-death pressure, I see them responding to fear and shame and shock and embarrassment and anger and frustration, as well as experiencing arrogance and confidence and joy and satisfaction and understanding and enlightenment.  I see what happens when those emotions are encountered by people of all ages, who come from all different backgrounds.

If you want to understand a character’s journey, watch a ten-year-old who has never been physical go from being deeply afraid of doing jumping-jacks to smiling with a partner during an intense solid-contact sparring match.  Watch a parent learn to let their own children fail.  Watch an adult discover that tension doesn’t translate into power, then apply that lesson to their personal relationships.  I get to see that sort of thing happen over and over, chapter by chapter, as my students work their way up the ranks.  I can’t imagine doing anything more enjoyable with my life.  I can’t imagine what my writing would be without it.

Er, actually, I can imagine it.  I can read it, in fact, since I recently found some of my writing from twenty years ago.  It is so, so bad.

Trust me, Readers.  Karate–specifically, teaching karate–has helped shape my writing as surely as the benevolent writers and editors who patiently taught me storycraft.  Giving up one would deeply damage the other.

Plotting Again

I spent last week at karate camp, where much of my time was given to coaching upcoming black belt candidates on kata and self-defense.  (Sparring isn’t part of our testing process.)   Black belt candidates are my favorite group to teach.  Despite the heat and humidity, the week flew by.

An added benefit of karate camp–the hours coaching students on the strategy of defending against multiple attackers, other hours considering the best strategies to communicate with parents, and yet more hours determining what motivates kids to make good choices under tough circumstances–was the ability to see my plotting with a sharper eye.

So why doesn’t Syrina tell her Big Secret to the exiles at the earliest opportunity?

Because I hadn’t thought to do that in the first draft, then just let that choice ride through all subsequent revisions.

Why did I let it ride?

Because I couldn’t figure out and manage the consequences of her revealing the Big Secret.

Then I began to wonder about that last answer. How many stories have a “Why didn’t she just do X?” moment because the writer was unable to think through the consequences of X? Because the writer cannot–due to inexperience–see what would follow said revelation? (And I mention inexperience because I found those at the foundation of my own un-choices.) How much of it is a hesitation to reveal because, in real life, the writer would herself hesitate to face the changes such a revelation would cause?

Or is it just me?

So now I’m on a kick of analyzing my “revelation” choices all over the place–determining if keeping a secret enhances the plot or manipulates it.  Looking at the reasons behind the choices.  Forcing myself to consider if the choices were made for convenience.

In this case, revealing the Big Secret creates a massive ground shift in the motivation and outlook of several characters, and greatly alters the reasons later choices are made. But–as with the worldbuilding changes I made earlier–it doesn’t change the story I wanted to tell.

Oddly enough, I chose to work on Sand of Bone because I thought it would be a relatively simple task to edit. Instead, I’ve opened the Pandora’s Box of revisions.

The Dream Job

This should have gone up last night.  Alas, I got carried away with gardening and yardwork yesterday and thus spent the evening trying to ignore the spasms in my back.

Vegetable gardening is not my dream job, even though I do enjoy it and its results.

I cannot choose a single “job.”  I’ve never been the single-career track type.  I enjoy and take satisfaction in many things.  I don’t have a single favorite, but two.

Writing would, of course, be a significant part of the mix.  I love storytelling.  Were I able to devote more time to those endeavors, I’d love to experiment with scripts as well as novels and short stories.  As the coming year unfolds, time for writing will become easier to come by mostly because I’ll no longer be driving my son all over the place day after day.

Teaching must be part of it as well.  Whether it’s at the dojo or at a conference, I love sharing information, watching the student’s process of understanding, and hearing of successes that come when the new knowledge is put to work.  Teaching changes people.  That’s a remarkable evolution to watch and be party to.

My goal over the next three years is to establish a working base that combines the two.  I think I can make it happen.

Five Fonts of Happiness

Mmm… Chinese food…


Five things that make me happy. Very well.

First, that mention of Chinese food does indeed make me happy. Mentioning Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, American, Indian and European food makes me happy, too. I love food. I adore food. I don’t consider myself a foodie, or a great cook, or even a discerning eater. But taste and scent and texture—and sharing that experience with others—is a great joy. I remember the immense pleasure of eating fresh cilantro atop carne asada for the first time. I can recall the sweet tang of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, tossed with feta and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. My mouth waters over what I was served at an Indian restaurant in Salt Lake City, though I can’t tell you what it was called. The fried green tomatoes and chutney I ate in Charleston were a delight. Tarragon chicken. Burgers and onion rings. Cannelloni con asparagi. Moo shu. Noodles with butter, garlic and oregano. Sweet corn. Beef barley stew. Cheesecake. Naan. Fried mushrooms. Hummus. French fries. Marinara. Steaks. Oh, yes, steaks. Food makes me smile from the inside out.

Unless it involves fish, and then I really don’t want anything to do with it.

Continue reading Five Fonts of Happiness

More On That Self-Defense Stuff

I was sent a link to a women’s magazine article giving five tips for self-defense that were credited to a woman with an advanced rank in karate.

Look: I respect any woman who has trained so long—particularly a woman who began at a time when women weren’t much wanted or expected to be in a dojo. That’s a woman like one of my own primary instructors, whose courage and determination made the mat a safer and more welcoming place for me to be in more recent years. But I can’t help pointing out when advice can be not all the useful, or useful only to those who have a lifetime of good physical agility and ability.

Before I say more, I’ll share a couple points.

Continue reading More On That Self-Defense Stuff