Be Water, My Friend: Empty Your Mind, be Formless, Shapeless..

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be watermy friend.

Bruce Lee

The late Bruce Lee remains a worldwide icon- and was a hero of mine, growing up. So much so, that I’ve got him tattooed on my arm. To me, it’s a reminder of discipline, a mentality- and to relish standing out from the crowd (all that… and because I like the look).

Recently I’ve been thinking about one of his most famous quotes- “be water, my friend.” There are a few ways to interpret this message, but the moral of the story is to be able to adapt.

For writers, or those honing any craft, this is a must. We must acclimatise to our environment and what is in front of us.

Empty Your Mind

How are you going to react when you realise that you know nothing? I believe one of the most important reasons to learn a new skill- every year, is to ensure that we’re humbled.

When invested in a genre, interest or skill- we can start to believe that we have the answers.

Feel that we know all. Our own confirmation bias, makes it difficult for us to change our minds.

Empty your mind, become teachable and prepare to learn new tricks. As you add them to your repertoire you’ll become a more complete artist.

I’ve been humbled time and time again, from writing to boxing. During these times, I felt it was important to learn. You can’t learn unless you drop the ego.

Be Shapeless

It’s a beautiful philosophy that could apply to many categories. Bruce Lee was arguably the greatest martial artist of all time. Hence why we tend to draw comparisons between his words and fighting.

It makes sense. But his quotes extend further than martial arts; then again, martial arts extend further than martial arts. It is a mindset; an art and a mind-altering discipline- trust me. I’m not the first, and won’t be the last to talk about how the skills are transferable.

When using this metaphor with fighting, think about the “brawlers” or the rangy competitor who stays at ‘arm’s length’. It is important for them to shake off the label, in order to compete against all styles.

We must do the same as writers. I constantly must jot down what a particular client wants when in possession of a brief. I’ll take a look at the ‘arena’ I am in, is it okay to swear? Is it okay to talk in first-person? Should this work be ‘skimmable’…

It Becomes the Bottle, it becomes the Teapot..

Over the past six years, I have tried my hand at a myriad of different job titles. Mostly within the realm of writing, yet they are all different. Sometimes you’d think that being a ‘journalist’ would enable you to learn the skills of a ‘copywriter’ a little easier.

That isn’t always true. Habits from one, can affect the other. The same reason, a boxing trainer, generally speaking, would prefer a brand new fighter they can mold, opposed to one that’s already picked up habits.

I have tried newspaper journalism, online journalism, copywriting, content writing, restaurant reviewing and more.

Reporting for a newspaper in itself needs adapting to, you’ll need to take on the style of the paper. Is it local? Then the national event you’re reporting on, needs a local angle.

Whether you are writing reports for a paper, descriptions for a major clothing retailer or converting customers to purchase online- they all entail very different skills and techniques.

When you enter the newspaper office, you become a journalist. Upon writing for a retailer’s website, you become a copywriter. Writing about your experience in a restaurant, means you’re a connoisseur.

Takeaway Message

What I’m trying to get at, is that we must be open to change. After all, it is one of the few things that are guaranteed.

If you wish to develop and improve, especially in an art- then you’ll need to be open to feedback. This will allow you to adapt. You don’t need to copy or imitate, but a fuller, more complete range of skills will strengthen your arsenal.

These metaphors ring true in a number of spheres, hence why I feel martial arts, boxing and exercise are so important for our overall growth.


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