Tag Archives: patience

The Fine Line Between Hope and Stress – Working With What You’ve Got

My brother once said that driving a car is like waiting in line, and having a motorcycle is like having infinite cut-sies. Public transit’s on a whole different level of frustration. It’s like walking into court.

You can see it if you watch folk at bus stops. They’re so anxious, you’d think that being late to work is on par with receiving jail time.

They lean off the sidewalk, trying to glimpse the first rays of a headlight.  They check their phones for the next arrival time, sigh, put the phone away, then pull it out within thirty seconds. They whip themselves up. Delays and accidents become personal slights.

It’s insane. It serves no purpose. Agitation, stress and anxiety are not offerings the bus gods require before they deign to release their servants for our use. In fact, if you stare off into the clouds and make no offerings, the bus will still come at the same time.

(The bus gods care naught for your plans, you see. They are terribly complex, like spiders with seven brains and 191 legs.)

Stressing out about your lateness does nothing to make you less late. Stressing about your productivity levels will not make you more productive. Stressing that you’re not Steven King will not cause you to wake up one day in his bed, with his wife, and his career. Freaking out about an agent’s response, the granting of a grant, or anyone else’s actions will not affect them — it will affect you. Your wishes are fueled by hope, encouragement and optimism.

Catch the clouds now and then. Hope was never meant to be a punishment.

The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.
― Paulo Coelho

Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie Ten Boom


White Belts, First Drafts, and Cutting Yourself Some Slack

The white belt (beginner stage) is hard to see, but it’s there on the left.

Karate belts are pretty handy. They keep your gi closed. They tell everyone where you fit in a school. When everyone’s lined up, they make a rainbow. They’re also a big fat metaphor.

Let’s set aside technical terminology (kyu/dan) for a moment. Say you start training when you’re twelve. You train hard, you sweat, you get knocked down, you get up, and you keep going. You wash your uniform. You don’t wash your belt, and it yellows. Two or three years later, you’ve grown a bit and need a new uniform. Your rank doesn’t change purely because you did. You still have the same belt – only now it’s starting to get moldy, and it goes green, or blue or purple. You grapple. Something spills. Before you know it, your belt is totally brown and you’re ready to train for black.

Your belt is a symbol of the time and effort you’ve put into your pursuit.

Last night, I watched my newest dojo-brother go through some basic drills. His instructors lectured him and picked apart the details of his technique. “Build good habits,” they said.

He’s generally a happy guy, but his smile was replaced by overwhelm, frustration and doubt.

His instructors spent a lot of time on the details of his punch, and that’s when it hit me. He wasn’t just learning how to punch. He had way more on his plate than that. He was learning footwork, movement, balance, coordination, torque and ambidexterity – and everywhere he looked, there was a mirror.

The white belt is your first draft.

You think you’re practicing a punch, but you’re really learning your own body. You think you’re writing a story, but you’re really learning your own style.

Your first draft is your sloppy, uncoordinated stage. The only thing you have to master at this juncture is your pace. How productive can you be, and still write regularly? How flexible are you? What’s easy and what’s challenging?

This stage is where, most of all, you learn how to cope with the stress and cut yourself some slack. Pace yourself. Avoid laziness, but never push yourself too hard. Your doubt, expectation, impatience and jealousy surround your writing as sure as mirrors surround you in the dojo. A crisis of confidence will lay you out as fast and painfully as a knee injury.

Building stamina is fine, burning out is not. Burning out stops you. Continuous progress leads to mastery.

If you’re a white belt at anything, don’t sweat the details. Don’t worry about what other people say in those early stages. You’re already surrounded by your own mirrors.

Embrace your white belt, and be patient with yourself. You’ll get there.

Combat discouragement with your desire to learn.”
― Phillip Toshio

While you are continuing this practice, week after week, year after year, your experience will become deeper and deeper, and your experience will cover everything you do in your everyday life… Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything. Then eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes itself.”
― Shunryu Suzuki

**Update! The belt color story is apocryphal, according to the scholars over at Ikigai. I have decided to leave this post up, however, because I like the metaphor.

Love Your Bad Writing

Do you love your writing? I don’t mean the brilliance and eloquence of your work, that’s easy to love. I mean the whole thing. Do you love it when it’s ponderous and awful? Do you love it when it’s tired and you can’t get it to go anywhere?

Do you love your writing when you hear someone else just got an advance from Amazon.com that’s large enough to erase your credit card debt?

I don’t. When I come home, and my shabby, smelly writing comes bounding up to meet me at the door — I want to kick it. I want to kick it because it’s not a beautiful blue-ribbon winner. I want to kick it because it doesn’t obey. I want to kick it because it was adorable when it was four months old, and now it gets hair everywhere and has gunk in its eyes. I fixate on what I hate about it, and would rather destroy it than face my own inadequacies.

For all its flaws, our writing is ours. Whether we stick with one project or spit out dozens of new stories each year, they are ours, and we need to respect their boundaries. These stories came to us because they wanted to be born. They wanted to live with us, play with us and help us cope with life as only art can. In return, all they ask is enough of your love to keep them alive.

Even your roughest work improves your skill.

Don’t get down on the writing when it’s ugly; and don’t get down on yourself when you have doubts. Even if you’ve been burned before, know that the best work comes from an open heart. Bend a knee, wipe the gunk out of its eyes, and remember why you brought it home in the first place.

Love requires the suspension of disbelief.”
– Matthew S. Trezza


“Everyone you see, everyone sitting across from you is an aspect of yourself. Once you learn to accept yourself on every level, that’s when the party begins.”
– RuPaul