Yes, I’m alive.
Despite the craziness, though, a new opportunity arose for me, and I jumped on it. I am now officially an independent businessman, and I own my own karate dojo, the Heartland Dojo. I still have my day gig, but now I have a little more freedom and control of my destiny.
I don’t talk about my martial arts training much because, frankly, I assume most people don’t care. It’s been a big part of my life for over twelve years, though, and it’s provided me with a lot of benefits and personal growth. Unfortunately it also got to the point where some of my friends in the writing community worry I’ve given up writing to become a Power Ranger.
I can see where they’re coming from. For the last four years, martial arts was a part-time job, and it became a major commitment between between running a school for my old dojo and continuing my own training. I love teaching, but things got to the point even my younger children were questioning whether I’m still a writer. When I realized how much I’d been giving up, it became time to make a change.
I’ve learned so much since making the decision over the Fall and Winter. I now have an LLC. I have wholesale agreements and insurance. I learned some accounting and I have a tax pro. I have contracts and waivers and payment processors, oh my. I had a lot of trepidation going in, but I can tell you, if you’re at all considering starting a business, start with your local Small Business Development Center. Thanks to a couple seminars through my local SBDC, I had a to-do checklist and a lot of my questions were answered.
“But Mike,” my friends asked, “isn’t opening your own school an even bigger commitment?”
That’s what I feared for a long time, but thankfully, that’s not been the case. I’m doing a lot of the same work on my own terms and my own time, and my schedule has opened up. My sons and I taught our first classes on April 4th, and on those nights no longer committed elsewhere, I have this weird anxiety like I’m supposed to be rushing somewhere or doing something for someone else. I’m only just getting over that, and will be able to develop some kind of habit to work on All They Fear and other projects.
Hell, I’m even making time to read fiction again, and I just started enjoying Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias. I also did some light editing/advice work for my man Russ Dickerson that let me flex some creative muscles.
Even better, I was able to maintain a good relationship with the dojo I trained in and worked for. These breaks often go sour, but I’m not one to burn bridges and fortunately we were able to make things work. I’m still a student of my previous instructors, and I still train with them and my fellow karateka from time to time.
I also received a nice gift from one of my students at Christmas: a book of writing prompts called Just Write One Thing Today. I’ve never been one to get excited about writing prompts, but it was a very thoughtful gift and it’s actually been very helpful. It has a year of daily prompts, and I started it January 1st. I’ve fallen a bit behind, but it makes a great warm-up and I’m committed to finishing it by December 31st.
The book was especially thoughtful given I talk about my writing in the dojo about as much as I talk about my karate here. It’s one of those moments as a teacher where I realized just how much my students (and their parents) are paying attention. Career teachers at my day job have told me I missed my calling as an educator, but no, I just do it in a different way.
Onward and upward. My publisher is still committed to putting out All They Fear, and I’m as committed to getting it into your hands (or onto your Kindles) as I am to growing my dojo and my martial arts skills. Maybe now I’ll be more comfortable talking about both.