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Balls of Steel™: The Martial Art of a Writing Community

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares her lessons in the dojo and how she applies them to her writing community.

Life cannot be fully appreciated in an insular state. Humanity survives by embracing community. So it’s not a mere coincidence that a writer needs to build a writing community not only for their sanity but also to learn and grow in their craft.

Many of my readers are aware I have trained in Chung Do Kwan for years. When I go to the dojo each week, I am greeted by a community of martial artists. We are a family. We train together, sweat together, learn together, and sometimes, beat the hell out of each other. But we always leave stronger because of that bond.

While I was in class the other night, I watched our master give instruction, specifically to those who are candidates for a black belt. They are there to improve in body, mind and spirit, and to prepare for the most grueling two-hour test of their lives. It is not just our master’s responsibility to aid them, but all of ours.


Every single one of us plays a role in a candidate’s success or failure. When they walk into the dojo of our lead master for their test, we are all with him/her in spirit. Their performance directly reflects our support for them.

What does a dojo have to do with writing? EVERYTHING!

It’s about discipline, hard work, thankless hours of practice, getting beaten up, bloody, broken and spit out, only to come back the next night to have it happen all over again.

Just like writing.

Even though we all individually do the work it takes to improve our writing and get our projects in the hands of executives, it is in part because of the support, guidance, and respect we receive from each other that helps us stay in the game.

You get out of it what you put into it.

If you work hard, your stories will improve. If you nurture and give to your community, they will give back to you. Every single one of the writers in your network should gain strength and knowledge from your experiences.

Even as a black belt, I learn from the brand, spanking new white belts. I really do. If nothing else, I’m reminded of how far I have come in 11 years. The same is true of writers. The lessons I learn from those who are just starting out are just as valuable as the ones I learn from my mentors who have been writing for 30+ years.

We are a community.

So when someone helps you, reach back and help someone else. Don’t always take. Give. Pay it forward. Shut up and listen. Learn from your peers. Learn from your elders. RESPECT each other. Be honest, but don’t be judgmental.

Above all, leave your ego at the door… or you will get the crap beat out of you. You’d be wise to learn that lesson early. Hollywood is full of enough egos. It doesn’t need one more.

But it's not just about helping others, it's also important to rely on each other and know when to ask for help. I don't just mean help with feedback or notes to make your script strong; you need to know when to turn to others to help keep your spirit strong. Mind. Body. Spirit. A writer needs to strengthen all to survive the marathon that is our art.

Every karate class ends with us bowing our heads in silence to think about what we learned that night. You should do that as a writer too. Learn something new every day and then ponder it. Digest it. Let it sink in.

Then pass that learning on to someone else.

When it comes to my thoughts tonight, less is more. I simply want to take this moment to thank you for being a part of my writing community, and a heartfelt thanks to all of our contributors at ScriptMag who share their experiences with us. I learn something new from them, and from you, every single day.

I am bowing my head in honor of those lessons.

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