I have always enjoyed your essays, and I thank you for this one.
As a fellow writer, there's another analogy I see between writing and Aikido: the commitment necessary to accomplish anything, and the even greater effort needed to improve.
I head up a small writer's group, and we have a small core of dedicated members who have been coming to this meeting since the group started 10+ years ago. We meet once a month for two hours. That's it. Not a huge commitment in the time department, and meetings are always the same third Thursday night, so it's pretty easy to put on one's calendar.
We welcome anyone interested in writing, whether they're actively writing or just thinking about writing. Most of our dedicated members currently or in the past have made their livings from writing. Yet there are no egos. Everyone is so willing to share with the newcomers and help them learn the ropes in the writing field.
Hmmmm, it's a lot like the dojo.
We frequently have newcomers attend who have the "I want to be a writer" stars in their eyes. They really like the IDEA of being a writer--the "glamour" (ha, ha), the bylines, the recognition, etc. But many times they aren't doing the one thing that will take them from "wanting to be" a writer into "being" a writer. They simply don't just sit their fannies in a chair and write!
These are often also the people who tell me they're just too tired or too busy or too unmotivated or too depressed to make this month's two-hour meeting, but they'll be sure to attend next month...but they usually don't come back. And that's OK. It's up to them the path they choose. Our group will be there when they are ready.
You know this better than anyone: writing can be grueling. It's hard. It's painful. It takes strength and determination to sit at the computer on a lovely day when you'd rather be outside because you have a deadline. It takes the mental fortitude to get rejected, take it in stride, and keep working toward a goal.
When I first started training in Aikido last February, our wonderful Sensei said, "The hardest part of Aikido is walking through the door." As a brand-new beginner, this had a huge effect on me. It was up to ME to make the commitment to come to class and work hard. Nobody could make me walk through that door except me. Do or don't do; don't try. Otherwise, I'd be yet another student with stars in their eyes about "I want to learn Aikido," who would come train a few times and leave.
Of course, there's more to learning Aikido than walking through the door, but if one doesn't even step into the dojo, not a lot of training can take place. Beyond that basic commitment to come to class, there's the commitment to maintain awareness in class, to work hard, to see how one can work even harder, to practice at home, to keep working toward the next level, to shed the ego that gets in the way of good training, and to shed even more as more rough parts emerge. It can be grueling. It's hard. It's painful. And there's nothing better or more rewarding.
Aikido's hard. Writing's hard. They both take incredible commitment and dedication to a lifetime of improvement. But the joy after finishing a well-crafted writing project that makes you say, "Yes! I'm proud of that!" or bowing out after an especially challenging (and therefore rewarding) class is immeasurable.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us and taking the risk to be visible and vulnerable.