The Willing Embrace of Training
We were talking a couple of weeks ago about the artist’s or warrior’s “willing embrace of chaos.”
There’s another, far less glamorous item that the artist or warrior embraces.
There’s an axiom in every army in the world.
“In an emergency you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.”
Soldiers train, athletes train. Why? Because they know that under game pressure or the surprise and dislocation of an emergency, the mind goes into a freeze or a fog. Training is to embed a conditioned response to this state, one that doesn’t require cognitive thinking. “Run to the sound of the guns.” “Drop and return fire.” “Get out of the house!”
Sailors practice “Man overboard!” drills, families rehearse earthquake drills. Even in elementary school (sad, sad to say), kids and teachers practice active-shooter drills.
You and I as writers face an emergency enemy too. Its name is Resistance. Resistance says, “You had a great day of work yesterday, let’s slack off today.” Or “This new idea of yours is a loser. Let’s drop it.”
In Act Two, we hit walls. Close to the finish, we experience panic. When it comes time to take our work to market, we freak, we freeze, we run for cover.
In an emergency we don’t rise to the occasion, we sink to the level of our training.
There’s only one answer for you and me, or for any solitary artist or entrepreneur.
We must rehearse and reinforce ourselves every day to respond to these emergencies without haste and without panic. The firefighter knows that walls will unexpectedly crash and floors will give way beneath him; the triathlete knows her bike chain will snap out of nowhere or her hamstring will seize up two miles from the finish line.
To prepare for these exigencies, they train. They rehearse. They prepare mentally.
You and I are athletes and firefighters too. It’s not glamorous or cinematic to prepare mentally for the hour when two years of work unspools into nothing. But it’s professional. It’s the game. It’s the life we’ve chosen.
“Run to the sound of the guns.” “Drop and return fire.” “Get out of the house!”