Updated: Oct 14, 2020
This week I read On Writing by Stephen King. The premier instruction manual for the aspiring writer, King shares his thoughts on what constitutes good writing. Pithy and illuminating, King teaches the fundamentals of mastery which hold true for Jiu Jitsu.
The following is derived from the first section of the book titled, “C.V.” (Curriculum Vitae. A resumé listing one’s qualifications.)
Why is this significant to the reader? All of the lessons below come before King actually discusses the art of writing. So, if you find this article worthwhile, imagine how useful the book will be.
Writing Rule #1- “Someone, always, will try to convince you you’re wasting your time.”
Our inability to express the value of Jiu Jitsu to the uninitiated is inevitable. Words are a poor substitute for direct experience. We can communicate knowledge but never wisdom. To think that we can is to be lacking in both.
Writing Rule #2- “The adverb is not your friend.”
Channeling the mandate “Omit needless words” from The Elements of Style, King stresses mastery is found in simplicity. As the Jiu Jitsu practitioner must avoid unnecessary movements so must the writer avoid affectation.
Consider the words of E. F. Schumacher,
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
Writing Rule #3- “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”
The writer must remove all concern for judgment to make way for good writing. Get as naked and isolated as possible, and let the creation come forth. Write what wants to be written. Only the second time around does he write for others, and share his work with the world.
This made me think of the concept of allowing yourself to fail in training so that you succeed in competition. If while training you count advantages, stay within your comfort zone, and avoid your training partner’s strengths then you are writing your first draft with the door open. You are more concerned with being seen than seeing.
Garry Tonon taught me this. That kid is one of the best grapplers in the world, and has been submitted more times in training than anyone I know. He puts himself in the worst possible position (while letting you think you’re creating it, mind you), and finds a way out. Garry’s training partners model Sisyphus, practicing futile labor upheld by irrational hope.
Make as many mistakes as you can. It’s called training for a reason.
Writing Rule #4-“Pow! Two unrelated ideas, adolescent cruelty and telekinesis, came together, and I had an idea.”- regarding the inspiration for Carrie
This is the importance of multiple disciplines. Their symbiosis results in a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Jiu Jitsu makes me a better writer. Writing makes me better at Jiu Jitsu. Their synergy allows for a new perspective on each. We all experience this. Whatever our profession may be, we often describe it using Jiu Jitsu as the metaphor.
Learning a variety of disciplines creates an invaluable perspective. Jiu Jitsu actually does make everything better.
Writing Rule #5- “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”
Jiu Jitsu is a support system for life. Not the other way around.
It is meant to make us better spouses, siblings, parents and children. Jiu Jitsu allows us to exercise virtue. Like the well out back, it is the conduit through which we bring forth our hidden depths, but without the water, it’s nothing more than empty scaffolding.
Jiu Jitsu is meant to compliment life– not supplant it.
Reading Stephen King discuss Jiu Jitsu through writing reaffirmed my belief. Mastery is governed by the same principles irrespective of the craft. Though the dance is different; the music never changes.
Stephen King and Ricardo Almeida can Waltz with the best of ’em!
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