Lesson #1: Get in Shape
I’m not talking about bulking up; I’m talking about practicing. Keep in mind, those ninjas didn’t get their muscles from thinking about it and neither will we. If we want to get in the best writing shape possible, we need to practice, practice, practice. We also need to vary our writing workouts. Not every day can be “leg” day. This means that sometimes we should focus on developing our characters. The next may be a day to look specifically at our word choice. And don’t forget to flex those fingers when creating new worlds!
Lesson #2: Gather Your Entourage
If you’ve watched American Ninja Warrior enough, you’ll know that you need to bring along your cheering squad. The same applies to writers. No great writer is complete without their entourage. These are the people who read your terrible first drafts and give you advice. They encourage you when you’re too tired to continue. They cheer the loudest when you’re competing (or querying). They convince others of your literary merit. Gather them closely and bring them on the journey.
Lesson #3: A Small Mistake Can Be Your Downfall
If one toe hits the water below the obstacle course, a ninja warrior is out. The smallest mistake means the end of the competition. As writers, we, too, need to pay attention to details to keep us in the game. This means proofreading, followed by multiple rounds of grueling edits. It’s not enough to slide by. You must be meticulous. Those who rush can slip and fall. Those who are careful and calculating succeed.
Lesson #4: There’s Always Next Season
One of my favorite parts of American Ninja Warrior is the back stories of the competitors. Many of them have struggled through numerous hardships to get to the competition, and I find myself rooting for them. It’s always disappointing to see them fall when they’ve tried so hard. But, inevitably, they come back the next season to try again. They didn’t accept failure the first time, and neither should we. If you think about it, just because we don’t reach our goal the first time doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It means we’ve taken another step towards the final goal. Maybe you couldn’t bring yourself to finish a book. Maybe you couldn’t land an agent. Maybe you were published, but it wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped. That’s okay. Pull yourself together and try for next season.
As writers, we may not be lifting fifty-pound weights, completing a parkour run, or dashing up curved walls, but we can certainly follow similar lessons to reach our goals. So, get out there. Sprint towards your finish line.
Be the next American Ninja Writer.
Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.