Once a week I go for a kickboxing class. I’ve been doing this for a couple of months. When I’m in that class I try to be all fly, like the instructor. I try to kick as high as I can. I try to keep my punches and cross jabs sharp and clean. I try to bend low and jump tall. The word to keep in mind is try. I try and most of the times I don’t make it.
Those sixty minutes are tough. Forget the sharp punches. I’m happy if I manage to move my arms. Forget those ambitious kicks. I’m glad to just be on my feet. My kickboxing instructor, both intimidating and inspiring, encourages, shouts in my ear and pushes me. She does everything she can so that at the end of the sixty minutes I know I’ve tried my best. Exhausted, with that burn in my legs, when I exit the class, I feel better. I feel better even though I know I could have worked harder. Punched harder. Kicked harder. I even rate myself sometimes. 3/10. 5/10. 4/10. But when I leave the class, no matter, how low the rating, I feel better than before I entered the class.
It wasn’t always like that. In the middle of my kicks and jabs, I used to tell myself that I should have got this down by now. I know the routine. I’m building strength. I should have the stamina. I would be so dejected that I wasn’t getting better that some weeks I’d skip class because going to class made me feel worse. But then, the next morning, I’d feel even worse that I didn’t go to class. That I didn’t try. That I wasn’t taking the steps to become better.
So somehow I learned to leave judgment at the door. When I was in class I silenced my inner voice. I listened only to the instructor. At the end of the hour, I made only one promise. That I would return. And when I returned, I made only one promise. That I would stay.
It’s the same with our writing. Whatever you may call it –Butt in Chair. Two pages a day. One hour in the morning. It’s okay if you type nonsense those 60 minutes. It’s okay if you miss one day. It’s okay if you aren’t able to make it to the fifty-fifth minute. It’s okay if you get distracted by the view outside your window. Just get back there the next day. Put your shoes on. Bend your knees and start fresh with those cross jabs. All that matters is that you are there, trying, learning, improving, every day. Just doing it day after day, even when it seems tough and feels impossible. As long as you are doing it there is the chance that you are improving, becoming better at your craft, finishing that first draft and polishing that last revision.
So as my kickboxing instructor says, “Let’s begin.”