The Third Man

After each three minute round, the boxer gets a one-minute break.

Tough Love

He collapses onto a stool.

His cornerman squeezes water into his mouth and places a bucket beneath his jaw to catch the run-off.  He then towels him off with an aggressive rub down to keep the muscles elastic.

All the while a second man, the fighter’s trainer peppers him with advice.

Stay out of the corners! Body blow, body blow, uppercut!

For the fighter, these two support systems are critical.

But they are not indispensable.

The third man in the corner is.

He doesn’t speak or concern himself with the boxer’s comfort.  He just does what it takes to get the fighter ready to answer the next bell.

If the temple is swollen, he applies firm—but not too firm—pressure with a frosty enswell to the bruises. The goal is to reduce the puff without spreading the damage to other blood vessels. Too hard a push defeats its own purpose.

If there is bleeding, he cleans up the area with a cold towel.  And then he dips extra thick, single-ended, Q-tip like, cotton swabs—like the ones they use in Emergency Rooms—into liquid adrenaline and jams the fibers into the cut, revealing as much of the damage as possible.  Exposing the largest possible surface requires a certain brutality.  If the fighter doesn’t wince and pull away, he hasn’t probed hard enough.

The adrenaline dams up the blood flow long enough for him to rub Avitene flour directly into the length and breadth of the laceration.  The powder binds to the ends of the broken blood vessels and coagulates the flow. An eye socket seconds ago drenched by a red river is now as dry as Los Angeles.

All with fifteen seconds to spare.  Just enough time for the boxer to shake off the sting, compose himself, and lift himself off the stool.

While the internal fight isn’t as wonderfully dramatic as an external bout, you still need three forces in your corner.

You need a cornerman…the one to care for your basic needs…the inner gofer who makes sure you have your coffee, your chair, your desk at the appointed hour each and every day.

You need a trainer…the one to teach you the craft, to remind you of the fundamentals when you make a mistake…your inner editor.

But without a cutman…the one whose only purpose is to do whatever it takes to get you back in that ring…you’re lost.

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  1. Justin Fike on August 21, 2015 at 6:18 am

    I love this image. Mental pictures are very helpful to me, so this is great, and quite timely. I’m in the climax stretch at the end of a manuscript and it definitely feels like the 12th round. Thanks for the reminder to consider any possible quick patch jobs I might be able to conjure to keep myself refreshed. Helpful and encouraging as always.

  2. Julie Gabrielli on August 21, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Brilliant! Love how vivid this is. Liquid adrenaline? Styptic powder? Ouch! Thanks for a visual metaphor that I can carry with me always.

  3. Mia Sherwood Landau on August 21, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Shawn, what a comfort to read your graphic description of the mechanics I’m feeling in the daily battle of being a professional writer. Most of us have to be all three of these people effectively for ourselves. Yipes, three more skill sets to master! Thanks for the unforgettable images you captured in your words today.

  4. John C Thomson on August 21, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Good one Shawn…

  5. Mary Doyle on August 21, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Great post – short, succinct and so true! Thanks!

  6. Ladey on August 21, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Love this take on Boxing, thank you. It brought back memories of My dad. He loved his boxing, coming from the Glasgow Gorbals in the 1930s and later in the Army, he had plenty of practice!

    Enjoyed reading about the need of 3 supporters, I wondered about the Trinity? Would Holy Spirit be the cornerman, Jesus the trainer and God the cutman?

  7. David Ward on August 21, 2015 at 8:27 am

    next time someone asks you what you do for a living, i suggest you tell them, “I make people very uncomfortable.” this posting was another beauty. it made me wince, cry, and recommit.

  8. Tine on August 21, 2015 at 8:42 am

    So beautifully written, so beautifully put….thank you, Shawn.

  9. Alec Graf on August 21, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Another KO, Shawn. Thanks.

  10. Iwundu Wisdom on August 21, 2015 at 8:55 am

    It’s a great angle this one came up with. Careful illustrations, pedantic imagery, and all of that.

    It is something to hang on to.

    The third man, I mean.

  11. Katherine Wilson on August 21, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Loved this post. I have always jokingly said the cutman was the most important person in my business efforts. BTW last night I listened again to the Virtues ofWar, my favorite after the War of Art. Thanks!

  12. Teresa Parker on August 21, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I shared this on my page, with the note, “Let me be your cutman.” Starting a writing coaching group and I realize this is what I do, in addition to reminding folks of the fundamentals we all already know! Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Carol Malone on August 21, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I write boxing novels and love the imagery of the third man. In my books, he’s a doctor who worked for the Nazis, but they hired him anyway because he can patch up a fighter in a second and send him on his way. But I love the imagery in regards to me as a writer. I need someone who’ll be in my corner. I have a book coach and plenty of instructors through the RWA. I just need someone who’ll patch me up and send me back out into the ring. Lately, he’s been missing.

    • Beth Barany on August 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Carol, That’s you. Only you can propel you back into the ring. Where is your internal cut man?

  14. Tom on August 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Great stuff as usual. My question is who’s the cut man for Steven Pressfield / Black Irish bpoks? 🙂

    Keep up the great work guys – love the blog.

  15. Sean Crawford on August 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Thank you Shawn.
    This is another look at the power, in this universe, of the number three.
    From my cabin: Next time I go have coffee I’ll try to think of the three types who, in Steven’s terms, help me accomplish the mission.

  16. Beth Barany on August 21, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I love this! Especially “But without a cutman…the one whose only purpose is to do whatever it takes to get you back in that ring…you’re lost.” I think we each need to internalize all thee roles, but most of all the cutman. I often think about the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” It’s up to each one of use to find the extra omph to propel us back into the ring. The boxer does that on his own. The cutman just makes us ready.

  17. Sonja on August 21, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    I’m not familiar with boxing terminology but I was right there with this evocative imagery. Simple and powerful. Profound thanks.

  18. Erika Viktor on August 21, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Where can I find these guys? I need them tonight. Got a lot of writing to do.

  19. Jeffrey Taylor on August 22, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Ouch, that hurt.

    Thanks for being my third man this round. Oh, there’s the bell. Back into the writing 😉

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