Why Writers Should Train in Martial Arts

Sparring with Keigo Kunihara, fighter in UFC55
  1. You should balance mental exhaustion with physical exhaustion. Does your head ever just hurt from jumbling ideas, characters and motivations? Or is it just me? Maybe I have a brain fever. You will persevere. Many people write because English composition was easy for them. In martial arts there is always someone better than you. You must slog and train to improve. Same with writing. The only thing that makes you better at it is more writing.
  2. Daily beatings prepare you for criticism. Let’s face it, your friends and writer pals aren’t going to be completely honest with you. They want to encourage you, so you keep writing and improve. Then the big nasty critics from the big leagues savage you like that bear in the joke who sodomizes the hunter. And you write another book, and they do it again. Then you write a third book, and the bear-critic says, “You don’t write for the advances, do you?” and you have a laugh before he sodomizes you again. Bears are assholes.
  3. Most writers suck at writing fights. If you don’t think this yet, get in a few fights, and you will. I’ve only been in one fight and I got my ass kicked. But the adrenaline, the fear, the speed of it has stuck with me. I mix those emotions with the physics and footwork of fighting that I learned from years of sparring. I don’t know if people think my fight scenes are realistic. But I try.
  4. People won’t think you’re so damn lazy. Or if they do, you can break some boards, preferably load bearing beams in their house.
  5. Fat writers die sooner. It’s a sedentary profession. We need all the help we can get. Do you really want to have a coronary embolism when you find out your manuscript was accepted? Or Michael Bay wants to make a trilogy out of it, except your carefully crafted tragic heroine will be played by Shia LaBeouf?
  6. It builds confidence. And writing requires it. A lot of it. Otherwise, why bother writing for hours every night, revising line by line, persevering rejection after rejection? Because like hitting your face with a mallet, it feels so good when you stop? No, because you believe in this story. Your voice is worth being heard. God dammit, your life has value. You’re mad as hell and you’re not gonna take it anymore. Remember, the guy who said that got shot at the end. So maybe it’s more like Cool Hand Luke. Never mind.
  7. Because I will wrestle you on the convention floor. You’re lucky I’m not able to make BoucherCon this year. Because I’d totally take you down and get some knee on belly action until you signed my copy of your book to “Uncle.”

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Dialer Turden

Sorry I’ve been scarce lately. Something to remember from a great, often misunderstood film.

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

-Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Like Starship Troopers, I see this movie largely as a satire meant to string along many of its fans and mock them. Do I think Chuck Palahniuk was suggesting bare-knuckle brawling and domestic consumer terrorism as the solution to the fatherless young male malaise that grips the navel-gazing, whiny office culture? No, it’s just as amusing as making soap out of liposucted fat and selling it back to the women it came from at $20 a bar. I certainly agree that our materialistic culture has made us identify with pre-fab furniture and posh vehicles as our spirit totems, but I don’t think that revelation is some sort of enlightenment.

This comes from someone who pays to get punched in the face twice a week at a mixed martial arts gym. Is that what makes a man? To paraphrase The Dude, that and a pair of testicles. Emptiness is as banal as evil; trying to be a modern caveman, the latest Fight Club-esque trend, is as ridiculous as donning medieval armor and championing knighthood as the natural state of man. There’s nothing noble or pure about hunter-gatherers, if you study anthropology. Belief in evolution doesn’t require that we adhere to its ruthless creed. Compassion for the weak is not weakness. We were all weak once.

Tyler isn’t an unattainable ideal, he’s a childhood daydream of the hard man the Walter Mitty in us wants to be, the lone killer Eastwood cowboy who solves our problems with a cold utterance and a gun. Or a clever quip and a few hundred pounds of explosive. We forget that in the end, “Jack” wins, sort of. Maybe Tyler’s plan wasn’t to blow up those buildings, but to get his other side to stop whining and stand up for himself. That’s what I like to think the movie’s final message is. Project Mayhem internalized. As much as I hate Starbucks, the wrecking ball should be aimed at the impatience that makes me a customer of theirs, ever again.

© 2010 Thomas Pluck.