I refer to, “eating my greens,” often on here. It occurred to me that I’ve never really dedicated a day to talking about what greens are, why I eat them, and why you should too. I thought it might be smart to generate a post we can link back to in the future. With that being said, grab some dental floss and let’s get munching!
I credit my longtime friend MLS Weech with coining the phrase, “Eating your greens.” I did an internet search and couldn’t find another origin to cite. So unless he comes up with something, we’ll say it started with him (congrats bud, your legacy grows!). Greens are simply non-fiction books. Desserts, on the other hand, are fiction books of the genre you enjoy. I believe in a balanced diet, but mine tends to be heavier in greens.
My approach to understanding and teaching writing is the same approach I took when I was taught how to train people in the military. When I was combat cameraman, one of my extra jobs was training my comrades how to shoot (firearms, not cameras) and operate tactically with small teams. I didn’t just fall into the job, I had to be trained to do it.
My first instructor always would say, “One mind, any weapon.” It was his standard response when someone would say, “I’m good with the pistol, I’m just not familiar with the rifle.” It was a simple, but very intelligent idea. Grasp the basics, and you can apply them to anything.
What he was saying, in regards to weapons, was if you train yourself to understand the mechanics of handling a firearm, you can apply those fundamentals to most weapon systems. In this way, if you would pick up a weapon you’ve never seen before, you would still be able to apply sound weapon handling skills (gripping the weapon, stance while firing, proper trigger pull, site alignment, etc.).
For me, eating my greens is how I ensure my weapon fundamentals are sound. I’m not training myself, or anyone else, to go to war anymore. I’m training to write and edit. It’s a different kind of war. In this war, the participants are their own nations. They carry the weight of their own worlds on their shoulders. Should they fail, they simply fade from existence. For this reason, I train. I don’t plan to sulk quietly into the night. I plan to leave mushroom clouds and destruction behind me. What’s your plan?
*Corey takes a cleansing breath*
All right, back to eating greens and shooting guns. When I first began training to teach people how to shoot, I was terrible. Not at shooting; I was a great shooter. I grew up in the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio on a 100+ acre farm and had been hunting deer, rabbit, and squirrel since I was a young boy. Our freezer would be packed by the time winter would come (sorry vegans).
There was a problem though. Explaining the process and demonstrating it were two very different things. I needed more depth of knowledge and tools for instruction.
My instructor understood this and developed training. He would stand on the firing line with his rifle while I observed safely to his side with a whistle in my mouth. I would give him directions and he would purposefully make mistakes for me to correct. After he finished firing and we cleared his weapon (took away all the dangerous things, like bullets) I would provide coaching tips.
I had worked with people before who subscribed to the, “Just believe,” philosophy of training. They would say something like, “Just press the believe button and accept this is how it is.” I hated that. There had to be logical explanations. Not every person can press the believe button. I didn’t want to teach like that. Especially not something people needed to have unshakable faith in. If you are going to war, you need to truly believe in the training you’ve been given.
So I studied. A lot. I spent hours and hours going through illustrated parts breakdowns of the weapon systems (which look like nuclear missile construction plans). I found books from successful instructors. I watched videos. I spent hours on the range and dry firing (shooting without bullets). I attended schools for instructors. I walked around in my house and pretended to give instruction to nonexistent people. I made it personal. Slowly, I developed my own style of teaching and depth of knowledge.
It was successful. Kyle (my instructor) had his method of instruction and I had my own. Between the two of us, we were able to provide a more robust curriculum. Everyone we trained came home from their deployments in one piece. Never once did someone say to me, or in an after action report, that their combat tactics instruction was insufficient.
The stakes aren’t quite as high now. Regardless, I still care about training. The methods I obtained back then I apply here. Most of my blog postings are attempts at turning a green I’ve read (or personal experience) into consumable and actionable pieces of advice. I’m not going to tell you what is right or wrong; I’m just offering you an understanding of the weapons.
For me, writing is a constant negotiation between the creative and analytical halves of my brain. Both sides battle for control of the writing process. Because I am naturally imaginative and creative (only child, imaginary friends, miles away from nearest neighbor) I have to reinforce the analytical side of my brain with greens. It’s how I create balance. If you are very analytical, you may need to eat more desserts (fiction).
This blog is how I feed the analytical side. My creative side gets exercise when I write my own stories. Much like when I was a weapons instructor, I try to feed all sides information without letting them kill each other. I encourage you to also develop a, “one mind, any weapon,” mentality in your own writing path.
Take the time to examine what makes writing resound with you. Study the craft. Strip it bare, expose the components, and use them to wage your own war. Make it personal. Fight your battles with the desperate insanity of the samurai.
“Do not rely on following the degree of understanding that you have discovered, but simply think, ‘This is not enough.’ One should search throughout his whole life how best to follow the Way. And he should study, setting his mind to work without putting things off. Within this is the Way” (Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai).
That’s it for today. More of a rant than anything, but hey, my brain is happy now. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!