This isn’t light contact; it’s the real thing. Granted, we use protective gear (mouthpieces are my friends), but most of us don’t wear face masks. Sorry to say . . . I get nailed with embarrassing frequency.
So why do I do it?
First of all, I think it’s important to experience taking a punch — especially for women. It’s important to know what it feels like to have a man attack you. There’s also something incredibly powerful about getting clocked in the jaw or gut and realizing that you have to keep going. In three years, I’ve caught a fingernail to my cornea, sidekicks that have knocked the wind out of me, and at least four punches right in the nose. Sometimes I’ve learned from my mistakes in missing the blocks. Other times I haven’t. That’s not the point. The big lesson is that I’ve stood up and kept at it.
The second reason sparring is so important to me is that it’s both predictable and unpredictable, kind of like life. It’s guaranteed that every single person sparring on any given night is going to miss a block and get punched or kicked. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how quick or agile. It happens to everyone. No exceptions. The unpredictability comes in because you never know who is going to really challenge you to be better that same night and who is going to make it too easy.
Sparring is also great practice for writers who want their work to be read by anyone other than friends/family. Because, you know what? It’s predictable that your writing is going to get slammed; it doesn’t matter how good or famous you are. There are going to be nasty critics out to get you. And, it’s just as unpredictable because you’re going to find confirmation in places you never expected.
The important thing is to know as a writer that you can — and must — keep going.
Rejections, bad reviews, snarky readers, misunderstood themes/messages, rotten buzz campaigns, insults, trolls . . . yeah, we’ve all caught at least some of these on the chin. But those of us who work on our protective blocks, who step up and learn how to counterpunch and kick . . .
We’ll survive no matter what.
Today, I’d love to learn about your own sparring experiences, your tests in life, that have made you more resilient, determined and strong.
Next Monday, Murderati alum Jeff Cohen is going to take the helm. He’s got a new book coming out. Please stop by and make him feel welcome. I know I will.