This past weekend, I have been mostly hitting people.

I was at a training seminar for Shorinji Kempo, the martial art that I do, with people from all over the country. It was good fun, very instructive, and generally worth going to.

Shorinji Kempo has philosophical elements, and unlike some martial arts they are explicitly built into the gradings, from the very first white to yellow belt one. One of the topics is “how to learn Shorinji Kempo”, and we all know that it can be applied to other things too.

So here it is: the eight points of why writing is like Shorinji Kempo.

1. Have goals

I mentioned this a few days ago, in a way which may have sounded like I was denying the need for goals. (I wasn’t, I was explaining why a particular goal wasn’t on my list.) Goals are important. They make you feel like you’re getting somewhere, and they are a good way of making sure you continue to progress.

2. Learn in the correct sequence

You can’t write a novel before coming up with an idea. For some people, you can’t write a novel without planning it out. Learn what the correct sequence is for you, and then do things in that order.

3. Learn the basics

Grammar. Spelling. How to punch correctly. It’s all the same.

A wise man once said “if you have mastered jun zuki then you have mastered Shorinji Kempo”.

4. Learn the principles

If you know where somebody’s balance is weak, you can make them fall over when they grab you, even if you’ve never been taught that specific throw. Likewise, if you know the principles of writing – how to create and dispel tension, how to create a specific atmosphere, how to make people read faster, read slower, or keep reading all night – then you can apply them to new situations, ones in which you’ve never been given specific advice.

5. Repetition, repetition, repetition

Keep writing. It won’t be perfect the first time, so write the scene as many times as it needs to make it perfect. Keep writing. And then write some more.

6. Balance your training

In Kempo this refers to the balance between hard and soft techniques, mental and physical, left and right, strength and compassion.

Don’t neglect anything entirely. Yes, you may be writing a novel, but there’s no reason not to also write short stories, blog entries, poetry, even jokes. Write in the first person, third person, second person, singular and plural. Write in another language if you know one. Each word you write will teach you something, and none of the types of writing are entirely independent.

7. Train to your own physical standard

This one is harder, I’ll admit. There aren’t many physical requirements for writing. You don’t even need fingers to type with these days. So we’ll twist it slightly, to working within our own personal constraints, be that time constraints, health constraints, or simply ability.

Do you only have an hour a week that you can devote to writing? That’s not a problem, it’ll just take you longer to write things.

Do you have chronic fatigue, or Parkinson’s, or ADD? Don’t let that stop you. If you want to write, then write!

8. Never give up.

This one, I hope, is self explanatory. Been rejected? Missed a deadline? Written a very large quantity of rubbish? Keep writing. More importantly, keep sharing your writing with others.

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