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Patience, grasshopper

Martial arts are a lesson in patience. It took me two years to reach First Brown (the second level of brown belt, just before black) when I was in Tae Kwon Do, and that was with an intensive practice schedule for the last six months.

Then I injured my shoulder, my husband got his black belt without me, and we moved out of town.

After moving back to Virginia, we signed up for Kung Fu with a former instructor who’d opened his own school. Two years later, we’ve graduated to red sash. It’ll probably take at least another year or two to reach black.

You cannot rush the skills.

Writing is the same way. When I first started writing, I wanted to get published with my second manuscript, less than a year after I’d started writing. I was ready.


I would have been like a white belt trying to spar with black belts. The likely result: a sound pummeling.

The more I learn about the writing business, the more relieved I am that I didn’t get published back then. I’m choosing to be grateful for the extra time to hone my craft; find my best method for planning/writing a manuscript; form a support network of other writers; and learn about agents, publishers, and the industry.

And when I earn my writing black belt (pubbed in fiction), I’ll understand that it merely means I’ve mastered the basics. There’s always more to learn, more to master. Another level to reach for.

I just need the patience to work and wait for it.

Kung Fu writer

My yellow sash graduation, October 2010 (yes, last year)

There really are people who can take you down with the flick of a wrist or the twist of a foot. I met a few of them in person over the weekend when I attended the Chi Lin Kung Fu reunion.

My instructor and a dozen or so Kung Fu masters were there. What an impressive bunch! (And a bit intimidating, especially when I had to perform for my purple sash test in front of them!)

With only two years of Tae Kwon Do and a year of Kung Fu under my, uh, sash, it’s humbling to be around men who’ve been studying the martial arts for thirty years or more. Their level of skill is astounding.

It’s a testament to the dedication, training, and practice they’ve put in.

And, like most experiences where I’m surrounded by experts, I got to thinking about the parallels to learning to write.

It’s incredibly easy to look at Nora Roberts or David Baldacci and think you’ll never be that good. And maybe you won’t. But it’s easy to miss the fact that those authors were new once too. They had to write several books—or maybe revise the same one repeatedly—before they got the call.

They spent years honing their craft, and have spent the subsequent years improving it.

If they did it, so can you.

So can I.

We all have things we’re good at. Some of us are athletic, some are musical, some are technical, and some are writers. Or all of those things. But even a natural talent requires focused effort, practice, and training.

Whatever your goal is, writing or otherwise, you can’t jump from beginner to master overnight. Even earning your black belt/sash (getting published) only means you’ve mastered the basics. There’s always more work to do, more to learn.

I may never be as prolific as Nora Roberts, but I'm sure going to try.

I may never be able to kill a man with my pinkie finger either, but someday I might just be able to take him down with my foot. 😉