A few nights ago I had a great post-BJJ catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen at the gym for a while.
The conversation related specifically to how he felt about himself in relation to his progression with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and his dream of becoming a black belt, which would eventually lead to opening his own gym, allowing him to make a living from the Gentle Art.
I quickly discovered that we were both on the same frustrating path.
Whereas everybody else in class seemed to be excelling at an exponential rate, improving with an alarming rate, we both felt that we had stalled. Somewhere along the line we had become stagnant. Our game became predictable, expected, and we became lost within the roll, rather than experiencing and learning from it.
For him, the relatively new blue belt, and myself, a single stripe blue belt for almost a full year, there was a harsh realisation.
We’d hit a plateau.
What always surprises me from the lessons I learn on the mats is how applicable they are to my other interests and ambitions.
Not for the first time, a lesson learned through BJJ can easily relate back to my writing journey.
BJJ, like writing, is a journey. It isn’t achieved in a few short days, or weeks, or months. It’s the accumulation of those days, weeks, months into years that allows perspective, growth and progression. It’s a collection of experiences, of peaks and falls, wins and loses, with even the most minimal amount of progress lending itself to some of the biggest break throughs.
It’s easy to get frustrated, even easier to get lost in that frustration.
I found something this morning that highlighted my BJJ stall:
I was awarded the first stripe on my blue belt almost a year ago in March. According to this chart, I am WAY behind my own personal achievement schedule.
Granted, different gyms work under tweaked different sets of rules; there isn’t simply one path after all. But it is disheartening to see that one stripe grey and fray with age, unaccompanied by any newer, cleaner friends next to it.
This isn’t the fault of the gym, its coaches or my teammates. If I haven’t done enough or grown enough, cultivating my BJJ IQ, then that’s solely on me – made all the more difficult by things like…needing to work, maintain social balances, etc. You know, those pesky things that get in the way between you and progress.
The stalling leads to frustration. Sometimes you feel like you’re being overlooked, especially when you think you’re doing good work, but all you can do is drill more, grind more, and try and perfect the technique whilst furthering your understanding.
“But what about your writing, Steve?!” I hear you proclaim. “How does this tie into Temporary?”
The same frustrations exist when I write. When you feel like you’re finally making progress with your writing – be it a short or a full length novel – but no one can validate it or, worse, someone is able to pick holes in the patch work you’d just laid down in order to fill the holes that were pointed out earlier!
You tread water. You pick it apart and put a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself – BJJ practitioner or writer, the end result is the same: progress comes through validation. Validation comes through recognition.
BJJ recognition comes via stripes, belts and, more importantly (as your mindset should never be set to: hunt stripes) in the expansion of your understanding towards the roll, the technique or the BJJ lifestyle.
Writing recognition comes in peer feedback (preferably positive) and, in a perfect world, agent recognition, a publishing deal and, opposite to the Darkest Timeline, a fandom that relishes what you’re doing. They get you, man. They get you.
In my last entry, Start As You Mean To Go, I concluded quite simply that the answer to achieving these accomplishments is to keep going, no matter what. To crawl there if you have to, which is exactly what I’m doing.
To quote John Cena: Never Give Up.
It’s corny, it’s on the nose, and I’m still not a John Cena fan, but there’s a beauty in the simplicity of the message, man.
It’s easy to stop. Even easier to quit. But nothing worth doing is ever going to simple. Grind away, guys and girls. The best MMA fighters and wrestlers will tell you the same thing: Embrace the grind.
Writing is fun. Playing in worlds of your creation, hanging out with characters of your invention, is fun.
Rewriting it is tough. Rewriting is the grind. But, like most wrestlers (both amateur and professional) and MMA fighters will tell you: Embrace the Grind.
Don’t forget to check out my new podcast, Sweet Story Bro, a show that allows me to deconstruct, analyse, rip apart and stitch back together stories!
First episode is focused all on Supermassive Games: Until Dawn.