Alastair Luft’s Blog

08/14/2016

Walking a Lonely Path

My wife used to teach dance, so when we started dating we did a lot of dancing related activities. We took lessons, performed a choreographed dance at our wedding, even participated in a minor dance competition.

​I made progress, but was it ever tough. Not only did I feel like a fish out of water, I was at times also impatient and self-conscious, fatal flaws when starting anything.

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This only begins to describe my dancing ability.
​In the end, I didn’t stick with it.

Sure, I tried. We brought a baby sitter to the dance studio, tried re-arranging schedules, but one kid became two, jobs got busier, and days between practices grew into weeks and then stopped altogether. Would it sound familiar if I said that life got in the way?

Faced with changing circumstances, I didn’t persevere. As time increased between practices, I’d get frustrated at having to relearn things I felt I already knew, which eventually turned into a dancing death spiral.

​An expression in traditional eastern martial arts at least partially encompasses this phenomenon – Bufu Ikkan, or martial wind. There are a number of meanings within this concept, one of which is that when artists of any sort, whether a dancer, musician, writer, or martial artist, stop practicing for a length of time, they always suffer from decreased ability when they start back up.

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Bufu Ikkan
At face value that insight may not be all that illuminating. That said, a deeper look reveals a more important message about the importance of resolve.

A Lonely Path. My experience so far in being a writer is that you’d best be comfortable spending lots of time alone. On the one hand, this is obvious – it’s not like somebody else can do your writing for you.

On the other hand, not only does the writing journey seem to be a largely solitary one, it can also be a rocky, steep and windswept one as well. Life’s twists and turns – family, your job, personal health, whatever – will buffet you along the way, competing for your attention and threatening your ability to persist.

Writing feels like a luxury at times, like when my 4-year old daughter wants to play with me during the time I’ve carved out for sitting by myself and writing. Does that have to be a lose-lose situation? Ironically, the harder one fights the winds of circumstance, the more difficult the path can become.

So what’s the answer?

Perseverance. I think a deeper meaning of Bufu Ikkan is that you don’t have to submit to being blown about like a rag-doll in a hurricane, but nor must you break yourself upon the rocks in hewing to your path. Instead, there’s a middle ground, a flexibility that entails adapting to whatever life throws at you while maintaining your focus. Maybe that means getting up earlier to write or saying no to some activities, like Ms. J.K. Rowling giving up housework. If she can do it, I can definitely give up mowing the lawn to make sure I can write and spend time with my daughter. Sorry, neighbours.
​In the end, when the winds of change threaten to blow you off course, feel out the flow and adjust your writing practice accordingly. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

But most of all, persevere.

Good luck.

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