Sometimes, I feel like having such varied interests works against me when it comes to making a brand out of myself. Also working against me? Not liking the idea of making a brand out of myself. The common wisdom, available in photoshopped images of lightning on mountains and tweets ending in #truth, says that I should just “be myself.” I try to run with that idea, but I think it sometimes leads to confusion.
During a discussion of interests, someone I had only recently met through gaming circles said, “Oh, so you’re a bro.” I didn’t really know what that meant. After some thorough research –apparently, I must be a pretty nerdy “bro”– I was happy to learn that I was grossly misclassified. The source of the confusion? My disinterest in several popular science fiction and fantasy series combined with my interest in mixed martial arts. MMA is, apparently, “bro” territory.
Instead of launching into the “well your interests are dumb, too” death spiral that powers the internet, I’d rather explain one of the reasons why MMA speaks to the writer in me.
Embrace the Grind
Every morning I get up, pour a cup of coffee, and write. The best days feature work that pays, projects with contracts behind them. The hard days are putting words to paper in the hope that someday those words will make money. It’s very possible they won’t. But those dead words are training, they are the practice for the words that will matter.
Along with that first cup of coffee I wade through the heavily sorted lists of my Twitter account (through TweetDeck, for those interested). The day is young and most writers don’t seem to be out of bed yet. But the fighters are. The mixed martial artists I follow have eaten a breakfast healthier than anything I’m likely to touch all week. They’ve run for miles, lifted the equivalent of four me’s at a time, and gone nine rounds in a boxing ring with someone just as driven as they are. And they’ve done it all week long.
Me? I’ve finished my coffee.
Writing is hard. I tell myself that all the time. Sometimes I tell other people, too. Just like the “be yourself” common wisdom, there’s no shortage of quotes about the difficulty of writing. (Suspiciously, most of those quotes come from authors.) The difficulty, perceived or not, does not take away from my desire to do it, to succeed at it. If writing was easier, I’d do it. If it was harder, I’d do it.
When it comes to the men and women who fight in a cage for a living –or to try to make a living, “starving artist” applies to martial artists, too– I often hear the same thing. They pursue MMA careers because it’s what they want and, from nearly all of them, I hear the same mantra: “Embrace the grind.”
The same training, the same routine, day-in and day-out, all undertaken to perfect technique. I look to them and see the need to mimic that approach because every day is the same room, the same monitor, and the same need to hone an art until it looks effortless. Then, in those gleaming moments when it does look effortless, when it flows smoothly and fans replay that one moment –a perfect hook– in their minds, the effort of the grind simultaneously disappears and reveals itself.
Inspiration and Parallels
There’s a lot more to it than that. Beyond striving for the same level of motivation that allows someone to break a toe and continue to kick with a damaged foot for three rounds (I’m looking at you, Uriah Hall), I find inspiration in their stories and their perspectives.
“If you’re not going after you’re dreams, you just exist. You don’t want to just exist, you want to get the most out of life.”
— Ross (@WritingRoss) July 6, 2014
Among mixed martial artists, there is no shortage of difficult lives that have been overcome, women and men who remain overwhelmingly positive in the face of incredible adversity, and just genuinely happy people who happen to like punching people for a living.
So, when I’m not finding inspiration in cutting edge science and shady politics for my writing, I’m finding inspiration from the human side of fighters. Occasionally, my Twitter feed will shift from #writing and #RPG to #UFC and #MMA. Sometimes, my eyes will glaze over when you discuss Dr. Who, and then I’ll become incredibly animated when a promo for the next fight card appears on the TV.
It’s OK, though.
Fandom is fandom, and there are a lot more parallels than you might think.