Yesterday I found out that I qualified for for Nidan exam; I'm on my way to second degree black belt!
This was similar to the feeling of getting The Call from my editor, learning that I was going to be a real published author. Both those goals are happening within the next few months and both of these have been a long time coming with winding roads towards the end in sight.
The end in sight looks very pretty with its matching envelope and formal embossed stamp!
I didn't become interested in karate until I met my Better-Than-Boyfriend. Until then, I thought that martial arts was for macho-macho-men or women who had something bad happen to them. (Later I joked that I'm obviously not a macho-macho-man so meeting him must have qualified as the "something bad" that happened.) I took a few group lessons with other students in my boyfriend's pseudo-class on campus, but by the time we'd graduated and moved out, I was hooked and decided to get my Shodan (first degree black belt) under his teacher; I didn't want any awkwardness or thoughts of nepotism spoiling my pursuit.
Note that I'd *already decided* that I was going to be a black belt. (Of course, I'd also joked that it was a matter of survival. When I realized that I was a sensei's girlfriend, the movies all say that I would be a ripe target for kidnappings, unarmed robbers, or helpless damsel in some anti-gravity karate kick-off between rival dojos. I figured I'd better be prepared!)
Okay, I'm no Rene Russo, (and thankfully my husband's no Mel Gibson), but you get the idea.
Happy ending? I achieved my first degree black belt in 2001 and continued my training at my (now husband's) dojo with the rest of my friends. It's typical to train for 2-3 years between belts and I was well on my way when I began serious training for my qualifying test in 2003...but then had to stop when I discovered that I was pregnant. (And since the little darling was square on my sciatic nerve, it nixed training of any kind.) One baby, 46 lbs. gained and lost, and a couple of years later, I was back in training in 2005...then had to stop when I discovered that I was pregnant. Complications, new baby, 46 lbs. gained and lost, and a couple of years later, I had a car accident and that blew another year or so, which put me on track for where I am now.
10 years later, I am about to test for my second degree black belt.
This is the face of 'I Am Not Stopping.'
Writing was certainly not the same journey, being earlier and (in some ways) both faster and slower than pursuing martial arts. I don't even consciously remember deciding that I wanted to be a writer, that's just always what I was. My first full novel was written at age 11 and 365 pages, equal in many ways to a) how many days it took to write it & b) how many characters I wrote into the winding plot. I wrote a novel every year until I turned 17 and went off to college where I wrote a lot of research papers, essays, theses and various magazine short stories and bad poetry. I continued writing novels, but they were often trumped by Life After College also known as "Reality" which left very little room for anything else besides a rude awakening.
Fast forward through odd jobs, determined volunteering, a Master's Degree, and moving to the East Coast to being married with children, still writing to impress my ficus and desk drawer, and wondering why I hadn't magically been "discovered" yet. My husband pointed out that I might do better if I actually sent something somewhere and joined SCBWI. As is the case in many things, he was 100% correct. 15 months after sitting down to the keys at SCBWI.org and attending that first regional conference, I had an offer on a partial novel known as SKIN & BONES.
What a lovely, fairy tale story! Happy endings all around! Right?
In one way, yes! I had a deal! A book deal! My lifelong dream was coming true! What I did not know was that I was supposed to have a "web presence", a blog, Twitter, Facebook, (and back then MySpace was recommended, now it's Tumblr), I should finish this book and write new ones, prepare for a series, sketch out proposals. Did I have a marketing plan? A web designer? A graphic designer? Did I know the contact information of everyone I'd ever met? It became a real whirwind wake-up call to what it takes to be a professional writer nowadays instead of merely someone who was typing as the cats sat in her lap.
And then came the first 6-month bump. No problem! Fall to spring? No big deal.
And then came the second 6-month bump. Um, changing debut years? Okay, if we're still on!
And somewhere in there I lost my first agent and went through the indescribable joy of finding a second agent with a book not even out yet. *whew*
And rewrites, revisions, a title change...
And then came the third 6-month bump. Uhh. This is still happening, right? Right?
It was happening. And it is happening. But it can play serious mumbledy-peg with your sanity if you stop and sink all your energy into just one project, so the good news was that I had TONS to distract me through these minor setbacks and a great crew to help me through the transitions (not unlike the pregnancy and birth process, too, but more like LJ communities, karate classmates, and awesome agents as opposed to family members and a doula).
And so...here I am. Or about to be!
Both paths have been weird and wonderful and I can see the finish line to having accomplished something I've wanted for *so* long! So it's a honor and a privilege to share them with those on similar paths.
Don't give up. You can do it. There is no timeline for awesome.
Kick or get kicked. *Hai!*