The reason I do the Paperback Book show in Glendale is the chance to see friends. Every convention and event is an opportunity to see people I simply don’t see otherwise. And one I seriously enjoy seeing is William F. Nolan, one of the last of the generation of fantasists who were part of Ray Bradbury’s circle. Co-creator of Logans Run, writer of countless books, stories, movies and television episodes, Nolan is a writer’s writer.
He uses a walker now, but at 90, I’d say he’s earned it. His mind is sharp and clear, and he is still in love with life, and in love with writing. His secret?
He writes every day. He works out every day. “Every day of the year,” he said. “Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday. Every single day. People ask why I don’t take a day off. I don’t.”
Why? Because that’s when you start dying.
He works out to have the energy to write. He writes to have the energy to live. Every day. EVERY DAY. That is mastery. Remember the definition?
“Mastery is a verb, not a noun. A vector, not a position. When you have the basics of your craft at `unconscious competence’ and have committed to your discipline for a lifetime, you are as much a master as anyone else on the path.”
Why? Because no matter how far and how fast you run, you’re always the same distance from the horizon. And so is everyone else. There is just…the path.
You are either doing it, or you aren’t. I have noticed that the greater the master, the more they tend to see themselves as just…students. And they have a genuine curiosity about where YOU are on the path. Martial artists don’t ask me my rank. They ask where I train. Writers don’t tend to ask what you’ve written (READERS ask that question), they ask what you’re working on.
Are you on the path?
There are three things I care enough about to commit to mastery:
I have to work out EVERY DAY.
I have to write EVERY DAY.
I have to engage with my family and friends, be sure they know I love them EVERY DAY.
Everything you can think of in life can be tied into one of those three arenas. You simply can’t name something I cannot. Because those three (martial arts, writing, family and friends) are DIRECT connections to my core energy, all I have to do is connect anything I want to do to one of them, and BOOM! There’s the energy.
I remember years back I wanted to see what Tony Robbin’s personal coaching was like. Knew I couldn’t afford Robbins, but did some research and found one of his top trainers who was also his best friend, and had written a book with him. I offered him 4500 for two days of work, and he accepted the deal.
We met at a hotel near LAX, and it was intense. One of the first things he did was get into my head to find my “triggers” and discovered that any time he mentioned my daughter Nicki my energy shifted. Blew up. Instant clear and positive response. Why? Because my emotions toward Nicki are uncomplicated. It is simply love. Period. No questions or conflicts. He was then able to teach me to tap into that energy for ANYTHING I wanted to do, because you can tap ANY activity into any core emotion.
I just took that knowledge and created three different arenas with clear psychological USB plugs: Martial Arts, Writing, Family.
Boom! Done. Wake up in the morning. Geeze. Why should I get out of bed..? Jason needs me. There is writing to do.
Boom! Feeling lazy. Why should I work out today? Oh…because otherwise I won’t be energetic enough to be a good father for Jason. A good husband to Tananarive. And I won’t be keeping my commitment to the little boy inside me who needs his daddy.
Boom! Why should I write today? I’m feeling lazy. Because I promised myself I would. Because we need to pay our bills. Because I have stories to tell. Because if I can sell this piece, I’ll use that money to attend a Danny Inosanto FMA/Silat workshop….
Boom, boom, boom.
What are your core goals? What are you willing to commit to EVERY DAY? The clearer you are on what they are and why you want them and how they relate to your core identity, the easier it becomes to access your passion.
Find something that gets your juices running:
- Personally. Family and friends, your inner world.
- Physically. Some physical movement that gets you excited, that requires fitness and health to perform. Dancing, hiking, martial arts, SOMETHING that makes the little kid inside you happy.
- Mentally. Something related to problem-solving in hunting and gathering. Money, career, education. Something that thrills you, which IF you could get good enough at it…and also MARKETING it, would pay your bills and support that inner child’s playtime.
All three. If you lack one of the three, you are going to leak life force. You also will lack critical feedback about the world, and will tend to hallucinate that you understand things that are really only conceptual for you.
You can hallucinate all you want about your profound knowledge of human nature. How are your intimate relationships?
You can hallucinate that you understand the world and your own physical being. But if you don’t have your kinesthetic sense, you are blind and deaf to an entire range of human experience. And won’t even know it.
You can believe you ae intelligent. But if you can’t solve the problem called “how do I create products and services for which my community is willing to exchange their time and energy, and learn how to communicate its value and demand what I am worth” you are either addressing the wrong problem, or aren’t as smart as you think you are.
In animal terms…you would starve in the woods, or be eaten by predators, and die without reproducing. A failure as an organism.
The route out is to accept the challenge to master these three arenas. Learn the basics. Commit for a lifetime. Walk the thousand-mile road.
It isn’t easy. But it is natural. Nothing more natural, and if you cannot do these three things: create and sustain human relationships, care for your body, hunt and gather…you have lost the basic animal capacities every rabbit in the wood has in their DNA. The most frustrating thing is that you’ll numb yourself to the missing qualities:
I don’t care about relationships
I don’t need exercise
I don’t care about money.
I used to believe it when people said that crap. Then I noticed how often they complained about being lonely…or aches and pains and being thought unattractive…or how tired they were of being broke.
And realized they were lying. Just…lying. “Do not think dishonestly” Musashi said.
And lying to yourself it the greatest sin. It leads to everything else. So easy to get lost. Unless you commit to taking at least one more step, every day.
Well done, Mr. Nolan. You’re showing us how its done.
Write the story that heals the world…