Hey – want to see an author break a brick?
That’s me. Now, you have to understand why this moment is so important to me: during my taekwondo black-belt test, I was not successful in my two attempts to break a brick. I’d attempted with a technique called a “palm-heel strike,” and instead of smashing my arm straight down, I came down at an angle, so my hand slid off the brick the first time. The second time, I tried the same move, and I did it well…but not well enough. My hand stopped at the brick instead of going through it. This was back in June 2014.
[EDITED TO ADD: And now, a link to the video on Tumblr! I don’t do much with Tumblr, but at least I’ve got the brick break.]
The picture above is from last night, August 2014. My dojang held a special brick-breaking workshop last night, in which the master instructors shared their tips on brick breaking and coached us as we practiced on stacked shield targets. And then it was time to break bricks (and boards for those who were not yet black belts). Two people went before me, and then I jumped up to take my turn. Honestly? I’d been anxious. It hadn’t worked in June, and I was worried it wouldn’t work again. But just before it was time, I decided to change my technique — instead of the palm-heel strike, I would do a downward hammer. I felt better about that technique; I’d broken boards successfully with it. Sure, if I didn’t hit properly, I might break my wrist. But if I hit it correctly, it would work.
I went up to my brick and, with a Sharpie, drew a smiley face in the center. I told myself I was breaking the brick. I measured; I mentally prepared. And BOOM. Success!
And you know what? Some of that success can apply to writing:
BLACK-BELT BRICK-BREAKING TIPS FOR WRITERS
1. Decide you’re going to succeed. Make it crystal clear in your brain that you’re going to accomplish the task at hand, whether it’s breaking a brick or breaking your word count. A thousand words? A complete scene? A tricky paragraph? You’re doing it. Don’t stress over “What if I don’t?” That nagging negativity can sabotage your success. Be positive — don’t tell yourself you’ll try it: tell yourself you’re doing it. As Yoda once said, “Either do, or do not. There is no try.”
2. Give yourself the tools you need for success. Breaking a brick doesn’t just happen; you need to get yourself in the right mindset, you have to practice, and you have to be committed. And it helps to have a terrific support system of other students and instructors cheering you on. These are tools for success. The same goes for writing: you need tools for success: a space for writing, time to do your writing, and commitment to actually write — and, ideally, a terrific support system of other writers who cheer you on.
3. If it isn’t working, change it. The palm-heel strike wasn’t the right technique for me, but the downward hammer was. If you hit writer’s block, counter it with change. Try a different POV. Move the scene to a different location. Focus on dialogue if description was bogging you down. Give your characters a different goal, motivation, or conflict. If all else fails, throw in an explosion (or an explosive technique) and see what happens.
4. If it doesn’t work, don’t give up. Oh, I felt like a failure in June. Yes, I had earned my black belt, but I didn’t feel like a black belt. If I had given up back in June, I never would have broken that brick last night. I didn’t give up. The same applies to writing: there will be times when it simply doesn’t work. Maybe the scene is wrong, or the chapter is wrong. Maybe the entire thing is wrong and you have to start over. That’s all okay. None of that means that you’re a failure at writing; it just means that piece, or that piece of a piece, didn’t work. The only way to fail is if you give up. Don’t give up — psyche yourself up for next time.
And now…a contest! **throws confetti**
As you know, we have a new feline in the house. When my sons come home today, they’re going to give this little guy a name. He’s black with a white crest and belly, white paws, half a white ‘stache. He’s playful and purrful and is utterly adorable. He and Nyxie (actually, Onyx, but we call her Nyxie) are sort of getting along: she’s trying to play with him, and he’s learning how to hold his own. I think that once he gets some size to him, the two of them will get along well. (I hope!) So here’s the contest: WHAT NAME WILL MY SONS GIVE TO THE KITTEN? First person to get the correct answer will win a copy of To Bear An Iron Key. Here’s a picture of the little guy. Contest is open to everyone — and it will close tonight, when my boys have picked a name. Good luck!