Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club — Lesson #17

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #17 – The Relaxed Fist Is Stronger Than the Tense One

This is one of those counter-intuitive things that makes sense once you’ve done it. When you first start training in martial arts, you think that if you tighten your muscles, you’ll deliver a more powerful punch. But you actually deliver a more powerful punch by relaxing your muscles. This is because you can generate more speed that way.

Being tense also makes you tired faster. That means you stop sooner or give up earlier.

Being relaxed about your work, your writing, doesn’t mean being lazy about it. It doesn’t mean not caring what happens. It means not believing that there is only one project, or one opportunity, or one person/editor/publisher/agent/shiny awesome orb of spectacularness that will make all of your dreams come true and you had damned well better not screw it up.

It’s hard to be creative under those circumstances. Being relaxed as a writer means not thinking, “This is IT. This must be PERFECT or I will FAIL and I will however inadvertently flush my writing career down the toilet.”

It means being willing to be wrong, or stupid, or misunderstood. And doing this whole crazy thing anyway.

Tell me about a time when you were relaxed in your writing. I want to know what happened next.

 

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #16

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #16: Physical Strength Creates Mental and Emotional Strength

One of the most important lessons I learned when I began training in martial arts was not to give up when I was tired. Some of my greatest breakthroughs occurred from pushing myself a little bit more. And I found that building my physical strength (by continuing to work even when I was tired) also helped me build mental and emotional strength, not just by some magical form of osmosis but also because I applied the lesson from martial arts to other areas of my life.

Today instead of talking about how physical strength creates other types of strength, I want to talk about the idea of pushing yourself a little in your work as a writer. I’ve been thinking about this because of a project I’ve been working on that is more challenging than I expected. While part of me wants to go find something fun and easy to do, I’ve found that this more challenging project is pushing me to re-develop some good writing habits.

One of these is intense focus. Because the project is challenging, I’m tempted to wander over to Facebook every ten minutes. But the project is also heavily deadline-oriented and I don’t have time for that. So I have had to push myself to maintain focus for long blocks of time throughout the day. This is something I know how to do but over the past few years, I’ve been less vigilant about maintaining the habit. Getting it back feels good, but if I hadn’t taken on the challenging project, I wouldn’t have to push myself in the same way.

What are some things you’d like to push yourself a bit to do in your writing life?

 

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club, Lesson #15

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #15: Teach others and you will learn

When a martial artist has achieved a certain level of competency in her martial art, she begins to teach it—and discovers that this is where the true learning begins. To demonstrate the techniques and coach other students, the martial artist must become intimately familiar with the mechanics of each technique, why it’s done, and why it’s done the way it’s done. To keep ahead of her students, the teacher must always strive to learn more. When she’s asked a tough questions, she may say, “I don’t know,” but then she’ll feel compelled to find out.
Her students also bring information and challenges to her that she learns and grows from. To become a good teacher, she must discover more patience than she thought possible. She will have to demand more of herself so that she doesn’t hold her students back. And she must think on her feet constantly and creatively.
The writer must do the same. Sharing her experiences with other writers is not simply a generous impulse but also a way for her to continue to master the craft. Articulating her knowledge helps her apply it to her own work.
Taking on the role of the teacher can result in even greater mastery of craft.

What are some things you have learned from being a teacher? If you haven’t taught, where are some opportunities for this?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club, #14

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #14. Know Your Target

In this lesson, I talk about knowing your audience, even going so far as to developing a profile of your reader down to the tiny demographic details that will tell you where to find him/her and how to connect.

But today I want to talk about knowing your target in a larger sense. Not that I’m trying to induce an existential crisis in anyone, but I think that occasionally stepping back and asking, “Why am I doing this?” is crucial to our growth and progress. We can forget that question in the crush of deadlines and to-do lists.

I was talking to a friend of mine last week about how I was starting to feel like a nonprofit organization, that the reason I worked to make money was so that I could keep on working. We had a good laugh, but there was also the germ of an important idea in that sentiment. I don’t do this work solely for the money, although I certainly like to pay the bills and I expect to be paid fairly. But I do the work so I can keep on doing the work. In other words, the process is what matters to me.

For someone else, it really is about maximizing profit. I don’t criticize that at all, but I can see where that person would make very different career choices than I would. By knowing what my target is, I know how to make better choices for me. And I’ll have a better idea of what type of guidance I need to seek out.

What’s your take?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #13

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #13. Discipline leads to strength

People often equate discipline with punishment, so it’s gotten a bad rap, but discipline—particularly self-discipline, which is what I’m talking about in this lesson—is crucial to success. Discipline is simply the ability to do things even if you don’t particularly feel like doing them.

This can sometimes be a problem for writers because we sometimes believe that we need to be inspired to do our work, or to wait for the muse to strike, or to be in flow. If we don’t feel the urge to write, it’s easy to find something else to do, and then the writing doesn’t get done.

If writing is a hobby for you then of course it’s fine to do it only when the mood strikes. But if you’re hoping to share your work with others, or to build a career as a writer, then relying on inspiration is a sure path to disaster. What you need is discipline, and for a writer, what that means in butt-in-chair time.

For me, the most important element of discipline is making it nonnegotiable. I know that waiting for inspiration is for amateurs, and I’m not an amateur. So, discipline is a must. It’s not something I have to decide each morning. It’s a given. I’m going to write every day, period. So each day I have my writing goals clearly lined out, with time for exploration as well as execution. Some people count words, some people count time; the important thing is to do the writing every day.

I also work hard to remove obstacles that get in the way of discipline. It’s easier for me to be disciplined in the morning than at night, so I do the important work in the morning. It’s easier to do the work if I have plenty of my favorite pens and notebooks and a good laptop. I invest in those tools. I like to work at a coffee shop, so I make sure my budget includes money for mochas.

What are some things you do that help you stay disciplined?

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Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter on my home page! You never know when I’m going to give away random good stuff.

 

Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #12

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #12 – A warrior masters many techniques.

As a martial artist, you quickly learn that if you rely on the same old techniques time and again, your opponent will learn to anticipate what you’re going to do and will defeat you.

The “same old, same old” problem plays out for writers in the obvious ways—if you rely on the same old clients, when one of them goes away, you’re in trouble. If you rely on the same old approach to every story, your writing gets stale.

But the most damaging problem with “same old, same old” is what it does to your enthusiasm for your work. If every article feels like a retread of the previous one, and every new story is the last one just with different names, pretty soon you’ll be wondering if WalMart is hiring.

Have you ever read an article or a novel where you felt like the writer was phoning it in? If you’re bored, so is your reader.

Constantly stretching yourself is a way to keep you interest in your work high. That means you’re more likely to stick with it, to find success, to please your audience. It’s scary, sure, but it keeps you engaged.

Each year, I try to find at least a few new opportunities to try something new. What do you do to keep from falling into the trap of “same old, same old”?

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Travels with Jessica and For Jessica now in print and in ebook! I’ve had so many readers ask for these books that I’m pleased to say I finally published them! I hope you enjoy.