The Pro-Wrestling Guide To Becoming A Tough, Badass Writer

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by writer, poet and musician Conor Ebbs.

I took up Olympic wrestling at age 18. Having played various sports since I was 7 years old, I thought I would be up for any challenge.

I was wrong.

Wrestling remains the most demanding sport I have ever been involved in—as a competitor, and later as a coach.

Writing sometimes feels like wrestling: staring down a blank page and attacking it explosively with the goal of pinning down a passage of prose to be proud of.

Here are just 5 ways wrestling made me a better writer:

Wrestling Made Me Self-Reliant

No matter how much you train as a group, when it comes to a match, you are on your own. You walk onto the mat, head high and heart pounding, to fight not only your opponent, but yourself.

Support is important, but self-belief and self-reliance are paramount for the writing life. When you release your words into the world, you open yourself to criticism, misinterpretation, and misunderstanding.

You need to deeply believe in what you write, and how you write it.

Rely on yourself.

Wrestling Taught Me The Importance of Goals

It is hard to stay motivated without something to work towards. Sometimes I would show up to my wrestler’s training tired. But I knew what I had to work on. I knew my weaknesses, and what I was working to achieve.

When you sit down to write, it’s good to know what your goal is.

My daily goal is to progress the piece I am working on—a stanza of a poem, a page of a story, or a verse of a song. Depending on how agreeable my mind is on the day in question, I may finish the piece on that same day.

Small goals then feed larger ones. I’m working on my second collection of poetry and my second music album—so the streams of small goals feed the rivers of larger ones.

I can almost smell the salty air of a sea of accomplishments.

What are your writing goals?

Wrestling Taught Me Endurance

The most physically demanding aspects of wrestling are also the most mentally demanding. Even the wrestling warm-up involves gymnastics and calisthenics, contorting your body in very awkward ways.

The more you get used to being uncomfortable, the more progress you make. Give up too early, and you stagnate.

Pain is temporary. You must learn to endure.

When I am writing, and I feel almost emptied out, I always stay a few minutes longer. It trains my mind to not give in to my body’s first request. As if by magic, ideas and metaphors appear in those last minutes. It feels like my mind is rewarding me for sticking it out.

Embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable. Endure.

Wrestling Showed Me Why I Should Leave My Comfort Zones

When I first started wrestling, I couldn’t tumble correctly, complete diving rolls, or fall properly. I was afraid of the unknown, and made several half-hearted attempts, with little success.

When I finally got out of my own way and took risks, I quickly developed the basic skills and gained a willingness to try tougher moves.

Here’s another example of leaving your comfort zone:

I was recently at the shore of Lake Superior with my family. Two young guys in swimming shorts were standing on the rocks. After much posturing, one of them jumped in to the icy waters. His friend wouldn’t follow. Excuses were plentiful. Finally, the first guy shouted:

“Shut up and stop thinking!”

Finally, the second guy jumped in and after a while seemed to enjoy his time there.

Fear of the unfamiliar is a survival mechanism, but it also holds us back. The only way to grow is to leave our comfort zones and try new techniques.

I regularly change my rhyming structure with my poems and change my vocal style with my songs. It feels strange at first, but the results can be as refreshing as leaping into Lake Superior—which I did, too, by the way.

Diving into uncomfortable icy waters certainly woke me up and it’ll wake you up, too.

Embrace the unknown, and if you’re hestitant: “shut up and stop thinking!”

Wrestling Taught Me The Importance of Mentors

My first wrestling coach, Craig, was an inspiration: he was consistent, tough, understanding, empathetic, and kind.

When I qualified as a coach, I applied much of what I had learned from Craig and brought it to my coaching sessions.

Had I started out without Craig’s guidance, I would have spent a long time learning those hard lessons on my own.

A good mentor helps you avoid pitfalls and mistakes.

All writers have invisible mentors. Every book we read is teaching us something. However, connecting with writers who are further down the writing road than you are (“visible” mentors) can be hugely beneficial.

They give you constructive criticism, writing prompts, and they point out roadblocks before you reach them—these are only some of the benefits of having a writing mentor.

Mentors help you avoid mistakes that might suck your time further down the road.

Now Go Out And Become A Tough, Badass Writer

Today, I spend more time wrestling with words and rhyme than I do on mats, but I hope the lessons I have learned and shared with you can help you further along your writing journey.

Conor Ebbs is a writer of poems and songs from Dublin, Ireland. He records ramblings on his poetry blog and is due to finish recording his debut album this September. 

How have non-writing pursuits made you a better writer? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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22 comments on “The Pro-Wrestling Guide To Becoming A Tough, Badass Writer

  1. Ollin says:

    Hey Conor,

    For me it’s cooking. I actually find cooking to be a stress reliever and it also has taught me so much about novel writing including the idea that the ingredients have to be just right and that if you want it to come out good, you have to dedicate a lot of hands-on work to it.

    Thanks for the great post! I love what you said about endurance. I’ll have to remember that.

  2. Conor Ebbs says:

    Ollin,

    Thank you again for the opportunity to write for your community. I really appreciate it.

    I like the lessons you learned from cooking – cooking lessons in a sense.🙂

    I look forward to learning more from your readers.

    Cheers.

    Conor

  3. “Wrestling Taught Me The Importance of Mentors” . I like this. Feedback is so important with out writing. “It teaches us to be better and happier because we write more” as Joni Cole says in her book “Toxic Feedback” where all feedback is good and constructive. I wrote a book review on this book on my blog site a while back.
    We need critiques and writing groups to encourage us as writers and there’s no need to go it alone.
    Thank you for this post.

    • Conor Ebbs says:

      Hi Clar,

      I agree with you. Criticism can sting, but it can also help us align our expectations of resonance with the results.

      I took part in my first writing group on-line last year and the prompts opened up many dusty pathways in my imagination. We can always benefit from a supportive environment and constructive criticism.

      Conor

  4. Christina says:

    Thanks for such a unique metaphor and for reminding us we can acquire skills from every aspect of life.

    • Conor Ebbs says:

      Hi Christina,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad it resonated with you. I think we can draw so much from other activities and pursuits.

      The great Greek poet Stavros Mellisinos was a sandal-maker all his life. Here’s what he said about having a job other than writing:

      “A writer who does nothing but write is like the moon, which gives off some light, but borrowed from the sun. A writer needs first-hand experience, which only working in another field can give him. Otherwise he is rewriting what he has read in other books.”

      There is something to that.

  5. karenselliott says:

    Nice article, Conor. Pain and setbacks are temporary – absolutely! Push through them, go with the flow, start a new chapter or start a new routine. Excellent job.

    • Conor Ebbs says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for the kind words. Walls are there to teach us how to climb.
      It’s amazing what the mind can do when you give it the chance.

  6. These comparisons remind me of when I used Bear Bryant for my Masters thesis for my MBA. There is so much to learn from sports, its competitiveness, its focus–and all the items you’ve mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

    • Conor Ebbs says:

      Hi Jacqui,

      Yes there are so many lessons. This list is certainly not an exhaustive one.
      Focus is absolutely crucial.
      Thank you for sharing that.🙂

  7. By which I mean, “Nice article, Conor.”

    It’s really hard to break the internal wiring involved in typing your own name.

  8. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    My first thought was how writing helped me in non-writing activities. When I was a caregiver, my writing skills helped me stay focused, on topic and research important issues. I wonder sometimes how I would have handled that situation without being a writer. Enjoyed the post Conor.

    • Conor Ebbs says:

      Hi Stacy,

      That’s brilliant, the reverse application of writing to non-writing pursuits.
      That has me thinking how writing has helped me in other areas. Thank you Stacy.🙂
      Glad you enjoyed the article.

      Conor

  9. Fantastic post. Innovative, informative, and encouraging. =] Well done and thanks for sharing it!❤

  10. You have so many great points here,Conor. I especially like “wrestling taught me how to leave my comfort zone” For me, I can compare taking piano lessons to writing. There are so many basics to learn about the art and craft of both and it is a slow building process-first I learn the notes, then I put them together into a recognizable song. Whether I’m writing or playing the piano, I am inching out of my comfort zone. Actually ,I think writing is life or it takes on a life of its own and I love the spirit of your message-to go out there and be the best we can be. Thanks Conor and Ollin for a great post!

    • Conor Ebbs says:

      Kathleen,

      Thank you for the insight. I feel the same when I am writing a song. In fact, the more uncomfortable I feel, the stranger the chord structure, the more I know I have to keep going, keep pushing.

      There is too much talk of fear and failure out there. We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The world will thank us for it.

      Conor

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