When I began training in the martial arts, I didn’t exactly know what it took to become a black belt, and I wasn’t sure I could reach that goal anyway. I just wanted to be the best martial artist I could be. I remember looking at the blue belts (intermediate students) and thinking if I could be as accomplished as they were, that would be something.
So I trained and trained and eventually got to be a blue belt myself. By then I wanted to be a black belt, and I had started to understand what it required: commitment to mastery, willingness to listen to feedback, and lots of hard practice (and not just any practice, but “perfect practice” – doing the techniques as perfectly as I could every single time I worked out).
Eventually I earned my black belt, but of course I *still* wanted to be the best martial artist I could be, so I kept learning and listening and practicing. And at some point I started teaching other people, and started writing about martial arts and so it goes.
There are a lot of people who watch martial artists and think there’s something magical about achieving a black belt, or about being a good martial artist, that there’s something that separates those people from the rest of the world. But there’s nothing magical about it at all: it’s just a lot of hard work. That’s it. Sure, some people have innate skills and abilities that make it easier for them to do jumping techniques (for example), and some people who are good athletes to begin with don’t have to work so hard, but basically you need to care passionately about the art, you need to hear your teacher’s criticism and you have to do it day after day. After day.
That’s what makes the magic.
I often see the same kind of thinking in writers: that there’s something magical about success, and if only they had the secret words to whisper to the right gatekeeper, they’d get in. But it has been my experience that it’s the same in writing as in martial arts (as in any art): you make the magic through hard work and the determination to be the best that you can be.