Here’s me this morning.
Johnny Morales of Total Defense Martial Arts has published a cool video interview of me that includes training footage. It shows some of the fun we have 3 times a week. I didn’t start doing this until a month shy of my 40th birthday. It’s never too late to start a healthy lifestyle.
Total Defense Martial Arts has reprinted my first-person account of beginning to train a seriously difficult martial art in my 40s. A few things have changed since its first publication last year: I’m now a blue belt, and I hardly ever get injured anymore, but the basic sentiments about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s positive influence on my life remain the same.
This has been a thin summer for me news-wise as I’ve been loading the metaphorical gun with more stuff to fire at you down the road. Another novel is in the can and with beta readers, and I’ll soon begin work on a long short story that’s been commissioned by a specialty publisher. Mark your calendars for Oct. 1, when I’ll be a guest at Con of the Mountain in Clifton Forge, VA.
Here’s the newest stuff in print. Do yourself a favor, and check it out, eh?
On the personal front, family life keeps me busy. Here are some pictures. Enjoy!
Ever heard the sailing term “in irons”? It means your sailboat is pointed straight into the wind so that wind can’t fill your sails. The jib and mainsail luff about, and it’s damn-near impossible to get moving again.
Having your writing rejected or criticized can have the same effect. One of my mentees is dealing with that special hell of creative depression right now. My answer is what I would tell any beginning writer dealing with self doubt and rejection. After all, it’s what I tell myself every day:
Get used to it, because it doesn’t matter how good of a writer you become. People will continue to find flaws in everything, and it’s just a matter of deciding what feedback you agree with.
Writing can be a tough craft to get down, and the only thing for it is to keep trying. I’ve lately been analogizing the process to learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. We recognize there that everyone has certain inherent attributes — youth or weight or athletic ability — that might make them more or less talented. There’s nothing to be done for that. But everyone, no matter how stunted or brilliant, still has it within them to earn a black belt through hard work. All it takes is time on the mat.
So we’ve all been there. Many of us often revisit there. I get rejected all the time, and it frequently leaves me depressed. Rejection sucks every time. But I’m in it for life, no matter the outcome, so I’ll keep trying.
Keep writing what brings you pleasure. Don’t worry about what genres they’re in or whether you’re writing in too many. Just do it until you find your own voice. Categorization will come later.
Video of my BJJ championship match in the no-gi, over-30 tournament division on Saturday. My opponent is a talented martial artist at my school who normally kicks my ass on a regular basis, so this match made my day.
BJJ is a great sport and martial art that I’ve gone on about at length. Follow the tag archive. Feel free to contact me with any questions about it.
This is so inspiring:
In a nutshell: James Terlecki, 74 years old, just earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He started it when he was 61. Thirteen years to a black belt is a normal time range in this martial art.
It’s inspiring because it gives me confidence I’ll get there one day, too. I started shortly before my 40th birthday, and it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I’ve often felt it’s been more difficult for me than for others on account of my age.
Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in something. In the time since his book came out with this claim, he has said this doesn’t necessarily apply to sports, which may rely more on genetics, and psychologists have disputed the figure as being over-inflated. I think it’s safe to say, however, that after that much practice, you’ll have achieved something in the endeavor.
I calculate that since I began BJJ in February 2013, I’ve invested between 400-500 hours in training. Right now, it feels like 10,000 hours until mastery — or at least until a black belt — is about right.
I’ve spent considerably more time in the pursuit of the writing craft. Have I spent 10,000 hours there? Hell, I don’t know; maybe. Am I a master at it? Certainly not, but because it’s my life’s work, I know more than the average bear. Maybe by the time I’m 74, I’ll have something worthy to show for my time. That’ll be 32 years down the road.
The way I figure it, I’ll be 74 one day no matter what (and hopefully still alive), so I might as well go for it.
In the meantime, congratulations to James Terlecki. I think most of us want to be you one day.
Made two choices in the past week — three, if you count my new commitment only to write in sentence fragments.
The first is to sign on as an official mentor in the Horror Writers Association. I’ve been paired with a beginning writer, whom I’ll advise for the next year.
The second is to return to the Borderlands Boot Camp for Writers in 2016 as a student/grunt. The last time I attended as a paying student was 2005. I’ve returned several times since then as a guest “dramatic reader” for Sunday writing exercises.
I’ve been submitting for professional publication now for 25 years. Does that make me qualified to hold forth to my HWA mentee, who is eight years older than me? If yes, then why return to a workshop conference normally populated with writers who’ve only had a few years of professional experience?
Oddly, you might say, I credit my newfound passion for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu martial art with guiding me through this. In BJJ, there’s an unstated distinction between talent and experience. Talent is that thing you bring to the mat: it’s inborn, you have no control over it. You might genetically be a jiu-jiteiro genius, and you might not. But whatever talent you have won’t emerge without experience. Experience is signified through the belt-rank system. White belts are still learning their basic skills. Blue belts have learned the basics. Purple, brown, black, and the legendary red belts have progressively customized those skills to themselves as individual artists.
I now look at the writing craft the same way. I don’t necessarily have more talent than the guy composing his first short story. He might have more. But what I do have is experience. He’s a white or blue belt, and by virtue of how I’ve spent my time, I’m a black belt. That’s what gives a black belt its color, after all: the grime of work.
With this metaphor in mind, I return to the writing craft with a more humble and generous mindset. As an HWA mentor and an informal mentor to some other friends and family members, I understand these writers may have just as much or more talent than I do. But I still have things I can show them. Paradoxically, this means I teach myself; it’s a truism that you don’t learn a skill until you teach it. It’s only at that point that you examine what you do and why you do it that way. I’m also helping others because I have mentors like Thomas Monteleone, who runs the Borderlands Boot Camp. As he’s told me, he has had mentors, too, and now he feels an obligation to give back.
As for returning to the Boot Camp as a paid participant, I equate it to the fun prospect of attending a particularly good black belt seminar hosted by Leo Dalla. This is a chance to study with writers who’ve earned their fourth- and fifth-degree black belts, so to speak, who’ve been around much longer than I have, and who can help me refine my skills. Even people who’ve been at it 25 years have something to learn. And along the way, I’ll benefit from that teaching-to-teach-myself blowback effect mentioned above. I’m doing it because I love the writing craft, and I can think of few weekends more pleasurable than sitting around analyzing plot and character development with like-minded folks.
Why am I doing these things? Because I finally have the right perspective on who I am and where I am.
Now if I can just land that literary agent.
This video of an actual fight is making the rounds about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. (Warning: lotsa strong language)
These guys are complete, boneheaded morons for allowing this to escalate into a fight. I don’t commend this as a illustration of maturity or common sense. HOWEVER, it’s a prime example of BJJ’s applicability to self defense. I’ve studied karate, Tae Kwon Do, and now I’m studying BJJ, and I think it’s truly the best. (You can skip the machismo and go directly to the fight at about 1:15.)
I’ve had people tell me, “I’m too old to do that.” Baloney. I turn 42 in two months, and I’m not too old. I’ve also met people pushing 70 doing this, and they’re not too old. Others have protested this is only for men or boys. That’s also baloney. We have a 100-pound female in my class, and in another six months, I have no doubt she’ll kick my ass. Others have told me, “I’ll just run away.” Yes, I agree that’s a great strategy, but what if you’re cornered and can’t run away? What if there’s a child or some other loved one who can’t run with you? And others have told me, “I’ll just kick/punch him in the nuts/throat/eyes.” Also a valid strategy, but as you’ll see here, that’s not always an option, either. Only about three punches were exchanged in this tussle. The rest was about control and talk-down.
If anyone near Staunton wants info on our local BJJ school (I *promise* we’re more mature than these two f’ing idiots), send me an IM. If you’re out of the area, open your phone book to find a school. Invest in yourself and your family by doing this.
End of rant!