Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I’m going to keep training


There’s a saying in martial arts: A black belt is just a white belt who refused to give up.

I was reminded of this when I was chatting with an acquaintance recently and mentioned my involvement in taekwondo. The woman asked me what I planned to do now that I’d earned my black belt. I was surprised by the question because I’ve never considered that my black belt would be the end of the journey. “I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last four years,” I told her. “Train to get better.”

I think some people see being published a little like being a black belt. You’ve reached the ultimate goal so why not sit back and bask in the all glory and enjoy a glamorous life.

Okay. First of all, between you and me, there’s not a lot of actual glamor in being published. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great. There’s nothing like seeing your name on the cover of a book or being able to find yourself on the library shelf. But it’s not like folks are throwing parades in your honor or tucking money into your pockets or even bumping your name to the top of the list at restaurants. I can’t even get any love in my own neighborhood. One day, I was outside visiting with my friend when her daughter got off the bus all excited. She was yammering away about how a “Real, live children’s author!” was coming to school for Career Day. My friend kind of laughed then said, “Well, yes. That would be Mrs. Van Vleet.”

When she found out it was just her boring, old neighbor, the girl’s face fell. Then she said, “Oh.”

Yep. Real glamorous!

All being published means is that you’ve mastered the basics and somebody, somewhere liked your work. Many times there’s a bit of luck or good timing thrown in, too. Published or not, writing is still hard work. It’s also thrilling and intoxicating and yes, so frustrating that you want to bang your head against the nearest wall at times. Martial arts is the same way. Even as a black belt, I frequently get my behind kicked (usually by some kid my son’s age!) and it’s not usual for me to blank out on a basic move. My point is, there is no big “You Have Arrived” sign waiting for you. Being published is not the end of the journey; it’s just a nice rest stop where you can sit down and gather your strength and look at a map to try to figure out where you want to go next.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of places I want to see, a lot of books I want to write.

I’m going to keep on training and try to get better. How about you? After all, an author is just a writer who refused to give up.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea 01.13.10 at 9:04 am

Great post, Carmella! This is so true. There is always more you can learn, and there are always more stories waiting to be told.

I’m surprised at the reaction of your friend’s daughter, though. Perhaps she already knew you’re a writer. When I told students at the school where I taught I had published some books, they were all very impressed and excited. They wanted me to help them write their own books and wanted to know how I got the words put into the covers. Of course, they didn’t realize how much hard work goes into getting there.

Andrea 01.13.10 at 9:05 am

Debbie, I like your cartoon, too!

Christina 01.13.10 at 1:54 pm

Great post Carmella! I love your comparison to being a black belt. And of course I’m so impressed with your taekwondo skills!

Kate 01.13.10 at 10:23 pm

I want that on a big poster. Or a t-shirt. I need to remember it when I feel like I’m always six months behind everyone else in original settings. Seriously, this is a must read post!

Kate 01.13.10 at 10:23 pm

My html didn’t work:

A black belt is just a white belt who refused to give up.

Laura Sherman 01.16.10 at 11:15 am

I really enjoyed your article!

I am a chess coach and freelance writer (yes, I know, an odd combination). I feel that everyone can really do whatever they decide to do, but they do have to practice and persevere. In the chess world, some people think that Grandmasters are born. Not so. It take a lot of study and hard work, but I think anyone can get very good at chess (really at any age).

Thank you for your article! May I quote you on my blog?

Christy Evers 01.24.10 at 12:19 pm

Very well put! I just started taking Taekwondo with my kids. We’re about to test for our yellow belt next week, so I can really relate to this! I’m aiming for a black belt and not intending to stop, and I’m aiming for publication, with the same intentions. :0)

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