Can anyone remember that scene in the original Karate Kid? That one where Mr Miyagi gets Daniel to clean and wax an entire car park before he can start his real karate training. It’s not just cars either, Mr Miyagi gets Daniel to sand down fences, wash windows and paint houses before he can take the next step into learning the art of karate. Although the chores seemed pretty silly in the film Mr Miyagi is teaching his student two very valuable lessons: discipline and instinct. I remember watching the film for the first time, when Daniel loses his temper and is about to quit, Miyagi shows him the karate skills he has learned from what appeared to be basic menial chores

Whether you’re a karate master or a writer, the lessons in this film ring true. We have to learn the basic foundations of a skill before we can become competent. As Picasso famously said “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” As writers we need a foundation, some sort of discipline to keep us sharp.

Show me Wash the Windows

What I’m trying to say with this very strange metaphor is that some of the more menial ways we can improve our writing, like picking up a thesaurus or maybe brushing up on spelling… Exercises which we would rather leave at school are the foundation of our craft. Sometimes the menial tasks are what’s necessary to improve, but we can have fun doing it too! 

Reading is probably the first time we ever engaged with literature, it’s fun but it is also a discipline. By reading everyday we can remain sharp, learn new things and engage with writing the way an audience would. In fact it may even improve our writing without putting pen to paper. Reading will provide us with new ideas, new words and a greater understanding of literature. Just because many of us feel we are well-read “enough” to pursue a career in literature, blogging or perhaps journalism it doesn’t mean we should ever stop reading. It keeps us sharp and keeps us efficient. Reading is our roots… Our wash the windows.  

Writing in a journal every morning is another discipline to make sure we get words onto paper every single day. We can enhance this tradition even further by using things like writing prompts to create entries making the process of keeping a journal even more beneficial to writers. Every time we write a blog post, brainstorm ideas, write our first drafts we are engaging with a past time which deserves dedication, patience and commitment, making sure we write everyday is a good way to ensure we are providing our writing with that level of respect.

Our Desk’s are our Dojo’s

Just like the karate kid, we have our very own dojo: our desk’s. Everybody knows that keeping our desks clean and tidy is a way we can minimise distractions and work more efficiently. The place we work shouldn’t be the same place we play video games or binge watch TV shows, it should be a place purely reserved for work; something which also helps us stay disciplined and keep boundaries in place. I’m sure you wouldn’t see Mr Miyagi watching the real housewives in his dojo so why should we?      

Muscle Memory and Instinct   

I get it, the comparison between writing and karate is a bit whacky; maybe I’ve been watching too much Cobra Kai, let me know what you think down in the comments! I genuinely believe this is an important way to think about our writing though, making sure we treat our work with respect and build a strong foundation to springboard our writing up high into the literary stratosphere. Treating the process of creating our work more as a discipline as a pose to an art is a good way to motivate ourselves and make sure we get the work done. 

“It’s ok to lose to your opponent, it’s never ok to lose to fear” 

Mr Miyagi, The Karate Kid