Saturday, January 25, 2020

WRITING ATHLETICISM: Guest Post by Tori Eldridge

Tori Eldridge:
Writing Athleticism

On my fiftieth birthday, I stopped training and teaching the ninja martial arts to pursue a career as a fiction writer. Talk about a dramatic change in lifestyle! I had expected it would involve major shifts, but I never imagined how much physical stamina a sedentary career would require.

I began planning this move for six months prior to my half-centennial birthday, ever since I picked up an old manuscript I had written thirteen years earlier. Back then, my sons were very young and my time was divided between parenting and martial arts. Although I truly enjoyed writing that first full-length manuscript and the screenplays that preceded it, I wasn’t willing to devote the attention necessary to pursue writing as a career.

For me, it’s always been all or nothing.

That’s how I landed roles in theater, film, and television and how I earned a fifth degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu. It’s how I still work as the debut author of The Ninja Daughter with the second Lily Wong book awaiting editorial review and a third unrelated novel halfway to completion. I immerse myself completely and commit my time, resources, and energy to a goal.

It took me less than a year in New York City to land my first Broadway show.

It took me eight years before my first novel was published.

I caught the fiction writing bug for the second time in the Fall of 2010, after I had already published a non-fiction book on empowerment, blogged on mindful living, and ran an online clothing store and website. The business of writing didn’t feel as intimidating as it had before. And since I’d accomplished what I had wanted with the martial arts, the time felt right for a major shift.
Sword Cutter

Being almost half Chinese, I pay attention to auspicious dates and significant events. So the idea of changing my life’s course on the very day I began the second half century of my life felt symbolically powerful. It was also very ninja.

As with all my previous careers, I made the switch cold turkey but allowed myself time to adjust. I’d been an athlete all my life and everything I’d done to that point had been physically demanding. I expected challenges with mental focus, but I had no idea how hard it would be on my body to write eight hours a day. My back cramped. My legs ached. I grew more fatigued than I had ever felt rehearsing for or performing in the original first national tour of Cats. Even the aches and pains of martial arts didn’t cause this sort of physical fatigue. The sitting was killing me.
Cats!
Developing the mental stamina to write all day was comparatively easy because my excitement about the manuscript I was rewriting pushed me onward. I didn’t know at the time that editing would become my favorite part about the writing process.

How Dancers Write
I had to get creative about my writing practice in order to hold still long enough to create.

Writing in Hawaii
My solution was to change positions and locations throughout the day. I perched my laptop on a rack on my kitchen counter and wrote standing up until noon. Since the story I was writing at that time was set in Brazil, I’d often play and dance to samba music. Needless to say, this led to many typos I later had to fix.

Writing on the way to Bali
Next, I’d move to a table where I’d either bounce on a yoga ball or sit with my legs sprawled in some dancer position. I’d been known to do this in restaurants, on the floor at home, or even in airport terminals.

I’m also fond of writing at cafes, lounging on my lanai, pedaling on my exercise bike, or dictating on a hike. What I find the most challenging is sitting in a chair with my feet on the floor.
Dictating on the Trail
Fortunately, from what I’ve learned in the last eight and a half years of pursuing this new career, is that there is no one way to write. We are all fabulously unique and quirky in our creative methods. Please remember this and think kindly of me when you see me standing on my head.

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Tori Eldridge is a Honolulu-born thriller writer and author of The Ninja Daughter (Lefty Award nominee for Best Debut Mystery Novel), about a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja in Los Angeles. Her second book in the Lily Wong series releases September 1, 2020. Learn more about her on her website https://torieldridge.com.