It begins as a lump of steel. It gets forged with heat, so that it can be shaped. Then it gets ground down, filed down, and cut down. It experiences extreme heat and extreme cold. The steel continues to get stressed until it is hardened. Once the blade has its shape and its strength, then it can be polished.
The sword arm starts out in a similar way. It begins as a lump of flesh and bone, but in time it can be shaped. On the training grounds, it can be stressed until it hardens. And once it has its shape and strength, it can be the weapon that is worthy to wield the blade.
Without a sword arm, the sword is useless and dangerous. It could be a decoration on the wall, or it could be a grotesque tool in a clumsy hand. The sword’s true purpose can only be realized by the warrior trained to use it.
The pen is mightier than the sword. –Edward Bulwer-Lytton
It begins as a jumble of words and ideas. Thoughts fluttering in the ether waiting to be caught. Moved to paper, they begin to take shape. They begin to become solid. In the forge, they get ground, filed, and cut. All the superfluities removed. In time, once the process is completed, the result may be something beautiful and polished.
Just as a swordsman must prepare for the day of battle, so a writer must prepare. Daily practice. Daily study. The mind has to be shaped, and it has to be strengthened. The writer will experience extreme heat from the critics and extreme cold from the disinterested. If the writer can overcome these trials, the message can indeed be mighty.
A pen, not used as a decoration, can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. A reader’s mind has to be strong as well. This too can come from practice.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. –Proverbs 22:6
It was a proud moment coming home from work when my son showed me a large pile of books and a new library card. This soon-to-be six year-old has a voracious appetite for reading and his skills are really accelerating. It is truly exciting to imagine the opportunities if he continues to cultivate this super-power throughout his lifetime.
I loved reading as a child but fell away from it as a teen. It wasn’t until a very boring field exercise in the Army that I started reading again. Once that bug infected me, I couldn’t stop. I developed my skill as a reader through fiction in those early days, and it truly has helped in my ability to read non-fiction. It was in those Army days, that I first began to realize that I, too, wanted to be a writer. But in order to be a good writer, a writer, as Epictetus says, has to write. And back then, I didn’t have the discipline to stick with it. I was arrogant and thought it would come naturally. What foolishness. It is on the training ground that a warrior learns the art that prepares him for battle. Likewise, it is in the training of daily practice, that a writer can master his art.