Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Witch's Brew- The Ninja and the Writer, Part Three of Four

My instructor for many years was Ninja Grandmaster Robert Law.  He is a darkly complex and dangerous man.  His teachings left an indelible impression on me and I will be indebted to him always.  He taught me all that I needed to know about writing.

One day, he asked me to clench my hands into fists and stand just close enough to a wall so that my fists touched it.

"Turn your head to the right and then turn it back to face the wall," he said.  "What do you see?"

"The wall," I said.

"Not that, you dumb-ass," he said.  "Look at your fists."

They were a quarter inch from the wall.

"Now turn your head to the left and back.  Now what do you see?"

"They're touching the wall."

"You figured out why?"

"No," I said.

"When you do, you'll know a lot more about the way a ninja thinks than you do now."

Here's the short form:  understanding body dynamics is the key to ninja techniques.

What does that mean for writers?

It means that a writer has to understand how their own mind works in order to write well.  That is the reason for years I've said  a writer should first understand the way he thinks, imagines and feels because this knowledge is critical to good writing.  Deal with the creator first and the creation will follow.

The Witch's Brew is to concentrate only on the story and ignore the writer.

It is the writer, after all, who produces the story.

Know what excites you, what makes you cry, what makes you laugh, what makes you angry.  Understand your need for justice and your need for recognition.  What drives you, what slows you down.

If you understand these things about yourself, you will have a compelling narrative voice. 


oceangirl said...

This is so true for I can only write what I feel. I think people can tell when I post to blog and when I blog.

I can't get over I'm writing to a Ninja!

Rick said...

Ocean Girl, it's so important to examine ourselves before we write. It's sound a cliche but it's critical to developing a strong narrative.

And he's the ninja- I'll always be the student. Michel Farivar, M.D. will inherit the title of Grandmaster Law passes away. He wrote a wonderful volume called "From Practical to Tactical: A History of Ninjutsu Weaponry." I'll interview them both for this blog one day soon.

Bonnee Crawford said...

Aah young Grasshopper, learn the ways of writing, you must, and become a master of the craft.

Thanks for sharing this Rick :)

Rick said...

Hi Bonnee! Now if we could just snatch the pebble from that blind guy's hand...

Old Kitty said...

I so want to be a ninja but am too girly and pinkified and old! LOL!

But seriously!! It's like "Physician, heal thyself"!


Take care

Rick said...

Yeah, O.K., but it really, really helps to be sly. You've got that covered.

Charles Gramlich said...

I find the best stories of mine always start from that place of stillness. a place where the ripples could spread in any direction. The struggle is to later make the whole work coherent while keeping that spontaneity.

BernardL said...

One blessing a writer must have is the power of observation with imagination. With that power an author can observe seemingly unimportant phenomena in everyday life, including small acts of kindness, courage, deceit, greed, avarice, and the mundane. From those otherwise unremarkable dealings we create new worlds, events, and characters upon a grand stage of our own imaginings. You’re right, Rick. What triggers our interest, or mentally drains us of creative initiative, while we thread a path through each day’s journey, either inspires or blocks our writing pursuits. It is important to know what does what to our creative side, but the bad is sometimes unavoidable in feeding that hungry beast called the day-job. :)

Rick said...

You know, Bernard, you should write an article on that hungry beast because you are so right. Or maybe a horror story. I would be your first reader.

Rick said...

I blame the Berserkers, Charles. Inner reflection is directly contrary to the Berserker theory where all you have to do is go frenetic and everything will just work out because we're bursting with emotion. Your way is powerfully elegant, which explains why I think your book "Write with Fire" is so important for writers to read.

Travis Cody said...

Writer, know thyself?

There is a piece of advice I struggle to follow. It is to turn off the inner editor and just write the story. I'm most successful in getting to the things I want to say when I'm able to turn off that editor guy.

Sometimes I sneak around him...that's when a poem springs almost fully formed to mind. Other times I have to make deals with him to get him to wait until there is enough on the page to make his input worthwhile.

If I don't take the time to understand where the editor guy is...what he's thinking, what his mood is, whether he's open to letting the words flow without critique...I'm going to stall.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Write the way we were designed to write.

Rick said...

Almost, Alex. It's more along the lines of exploration in your new book "CassaFire." Remember how Athee (character from his new book, folks) had the psychic power but didn't know that she had it and when she knew she had it, she then had to be taught how to use it?

And how her Uncle tried to convince her it was natural to communicate with our mouths and gestures but not natural to communicate brain to brain.

Most writers are in the same boat. They don't begin to know the power they have because they won't look at the way their brain operates and what it can do. The nod, they smile, and they go back to looking at everything else except themselves and their own potential.

Rick said...

Well put, Travis. Most writers nod and smile at this idea only because they don't know the incredible creative power they possess.

They concentrate on writing techniques first without analyzing what's in their brain and how it operates. Trying to walk into a house without opening the door first.

Patsy said...

Knowing what we want to write and why is very important - if we don't know that we don't know when we've achieved our aim.

Rick said...

Absolutely right, Patsy! Written goals, are much more often acheived.