Sunday 18th June 2017
Some days aren’t glamorous. Some days are about turning up and doing the fucking work. There’s nothing unique about the work, you don’t even believe you do your best work but you turn up anyway and you do it.
That was my today.
I went sparring this morning. It’s a 90 minute drive for 2 hours of fighting. Then it’s a 90 minute drive home. I spend longer on the road than I do actually fighting. But I turn up every week and I fight, because I believe that by doing this I’ll improve.
Being surrounded by some great fighters it’s often hard to see progress. Indeed, after weeks like last week, I’m more likely to feel that I’m moving backwards rather than forwards.
It’s unsexy work. It’s turning up and putting the hours in. It’s the unfun stuff that few want to hear about. They want to hear about the trophies and the tournaments and the medals.
Fran said that when I started swordfighting, she didn’t think I would last. I get a bit of a kick out of that. Likewise, I think there are some well-meaning people who don’t think I could ever be good. I think some people were really shocked when I dropped weight and started putting on muscle. But like the swordfighting that was micro progress.
I try and be real patient, although with the swordfighting it’s hard. I put my head down and work, turning up to every training session.
And today I noticed a few things. I noticed that I went up against some very fit people who were out of breath when I wasn’t. You’d never think that possible 18 months ago. I also fought a fighter I really rate, and who a year ago would have destroyed me. Today it was the other way round.
I realise that I’m probably one of only three or four School of the Sword fighters going to Swordfish this year. I don’t expect to win. I’d like to do better than I did last year, but I suspect I’ll go out in the pools.
And that’s fine. I just want to do better than last year.
I’ve been telling everyone I’ll probably do poorly at Astolat next month and Fightcamp in August. This is because there’s a part of me that isn’t patient about those tournaments. Last year I was incredibly frustrated with my apparent lack of progress and it seemed to all come out then: stress about my fighting, stress about family health, about the day job, about the edits. I was not a nice person to be around.
And I’m bracing myself to be as frustrated this year by holding myself to account through telling everyone. I’ve fought well in every tournament since Swordfish (weirdly the toughest tournament psychologically – and it was the one that made me) and so I worry part of me feels success is deserved.
But, of course, it’s not. The fact I seemed to fight well today, doesn’t mean I will tomorrow. It goes in ebbs and waves.
So all I can do is just turn up and do the work and trust that the hard work will pay off in the long run.
The same goes for my writing. I’ve made progress on the edits tonight, doing another 40 pages. I was feeling a little frustrated this morning as I want to get this done and they are taking longer than I’d hoped. That’s not due to lack of effort. I reckon that I worked on the edits for a good 16-17 hours yesterday.
As I try and remind myself, it’s a case of turning up. I’m putting in the unsexy work now for the payoff down the road.
And like the swordfighting, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve told myself that I need to be patient, that the extra diligence I’m showing will be the thing that pays off.
Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. I’m dipping into the line edits and being ruthless in cutting stuff, and then I come across a comment that involves rejigging an entire chapter. That’s when I panic a little. I’ve been working at the micro level for so long that something like a chapter edit just feels huge.
But coming back to it after a little break, I tackle it, never sure if what I’m doing is really improving the text or not. All I can do is the unsexy work of grinding through this, the micro progress.
If I’ve learnt anything about myself and others this past year is that I’m prepared to do this. I put in a ridiculous number of hours. I’ll keep going when others would have quit. And I hope that this will pay off. Not just in the writing but in the swordfighting as well.
I may not be the quickest or the most talented, but I have mental stamina and I’ll keep going when most people will have quit. I turn up and do the fucking work.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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