What’s your excuse?

I earned my black belt in Thai kickboxing last night.img073

I began my training in late 2008 without any fat, muscle, or awareness of my exercise-induced asthma.

My inability to breathe properly sort of snuck past me for more than a quarter-century. At first, I assumed I was in terrible shape, and that was likely part of the equation, but then my endurance became more erratic. Some days, I’d get through the class with energy to spare. Other days, especially really hot or cold days, I’d feel out of breath in five minutes.

I saw my doctor, and he told me I have asthma.

Several times while huffing and puffing, I wondered if I should give up the rigorous kickboxing and revert to lighter exercises, but I realized I hadn’t hit my limits quite yet. Sure, the asthma was holding me back, but so were junk food and my previous lack of exercise. I still had more progress to make, so I muddled through and learned the truth behind “no pain, no gain.”

I still get winded easily on some days, but I’ve learned my limits are much further out than I initially believed, and I’ve still got room to grow. Now, I’m in far better shape at 30 than I ever was at 20. I’m thankful that I stuck with it.

(Disclaimer: Every asthma case is different. Mine may be milder than others, and some asthmatics probably shouldn’t do anything this strenuous. In any case, never take medical advice from some guy with a B.A. in English.)

This all applies to the writing world as well. I reached my black belt one class at a time, or even one punch or kick at a time. How do you finish a book? Ultimately, one word at a time.

When you approach the blank page at the start of your first draft, it may feel daunting to think that you’re going to fill that thing up with 40,000 to 100,000 words.

It’s a lengthy process, and numerous excuses will pop up and suggest that you quit. “Do something more practical!” “These other authors are so brilliant. Why even bother?” “I’ve written myself into a corner. Oh well! What’s on TV?” “There’s a speck of dust on my desk. I better clean that.”

Keep at it. If it stops being fun, then take a break and recharge. But if you feel something is worth starting, it should be worth finishing. And just when you think you’ve finished, you’ll start seeing tons of room for improvement, so you keep going. And going. And going.

And there is no finish line, because once you write a book you’re satisfied with, you’ll write a better one. Then you’ll write an even better one. And then you’ll probably stumble and write a clunker, but the next will be your best yet, and you keep going.

Anyway, the world has always had a shortage of asthmatic martial artists. I’m happy to do my part to fill that void.