I’ve been mulling the concept of champions lately as I prepare for my keynotes at Oregon Christian Writers’ Fall Conference, and it brings me back to a striking comparison between the writing life and training for tae kwon do that my family and I have been immersed in for the last four years. Soon, our family will test for our second degree black belts.
I confess a painful truth—I’m not getting any younger. And training is tough. I’ve injured myself a lot in the last six months (my back, bruised the bone of my elbow, jammed my toe breaking boards). But we love it. And we know that the hard work will pay off—we’ll be stronger and in better shape.
|Kendig's 1st Degree Black Belt Ceremony|
My tae kwon do instructors are world champions. The best. They are sixth and seventh-degree black belts, which amounts to decades of experience. Yet, they are the most humble people I’ve met. I’m struck by how hard this career is, how isolating it can be…yet, how “easy” it is to be a champion to someone. Each night in TKD, we get on the mat, leaving behind our insecurities, the weight of a long day, and the all-too-real life that plagues us. We’re geared up and ready to spar, train, and do our forms. These students and our instructors have become our family. We cheer each other on and challenge each other.
And again, the same is true of the writing community. We have champions around us who are actively championing other writers. And I think that’s what we should all be doing. After all, we are surrounded by like-minded individuals, writing and working toward similar goals—publication, representation.
Over the last 10 years, as I’ve honed my writing craft and fought to develop my career, I have battled discouragement. It’s always there, bouncing on its toes as I edge closer to the “ring” of life. Daring me. Taunting me. Ridiculing me. Discouraging me. It’s a ready foe, anxious to nail a sidekick into our guts and bring us to our knees.
Let’s face it, writing isn’t easy. Often, it’s just plain hard. It demands a lot of us as artists. St. Francis of Assisi said, “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an artist.”
Being an artist requires us to create, to draw from a deep well of emotional content, and pour onto the page. Sometimes, when we do, it depletes our emotional and mental reserves. We have to refuel. But how? Where?
It’s important to surround yourself with supportive writing friends who will lift you up during the rough patches instead of belittling or comparing as often happens in our competitive industry. We should be champions for each other. Come alongside someone who is struggling and be their champion.
We must get on the mat, be willing to train with each other, and cheer one another on. See someone flagging in their courage? Be encouragement to them. See a friend struggling through life? Find a way to champion their cause. Is someone working hard yet battling discouragement? Be their champion.
Special Forces operative Cole "Tox" Russell and his team are tasked in a search-and-rescue--the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour. The mission nosedives when an ancient biblical artifact and a deadly toxin wipe out villages. Tox must stop the terrorists and the toxin to save the president.