My mountain-top guru on writing has always been Eric. If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know that he’s the one who told me, “If you wanted to be a writer, you would write.” I never forgot that advice.

Another of Eric’s wisdom nuggets was, “Writing is rewriting.”

Well, it probably went more like, “Dude, your first draft will always suck. Shut up and put the words on the paper,” but I digress.

I’d rewritten PUNISHMENT four or five times at this point, and when we heard back from Thomas & Mercer, the message was, “Rewrite it and we’ll take another look.”

Fuuuuuuuuughhh. Maybe I should have called the book HAPPY ROSES instead of PUNISHMENT.

For a short while I was a boxer. This was back in college. I needed to know if I was tough enough to make it in the ring like all the heroes my dad and I used to watch on USA’s Tuesday Night Fights. So I headed down to Crown Gym in Lansing and just sorta hung around watching Sledgehammer Joe Lipsey murder a heavy bag until someone talked to me. I asked how I can join and they got me signed up. The next day I went back there and started training.

For a solid month I trained, got a little leaner, a little meaner, and learned how to throw a punch. But there was one key ingredient to a boxer’s soul that really isn’t something you can learn. It’s either in you or it’s not.

Can you take a punch?

I didn’t know, but the boys thought I was ready to find out, so they put me in the ring with a southpaw who’d been a boxer for eight years. They said he’d take it easy on me, but they just wanted to test how I was progressing. Cool. I got in there, danced around a bit, and threw a punch or two, which he easily ducked… and then he hit me.

I have three older brothers, yo. I have been straight up socked in the face my share of times, so I thought I knew a thing or two about getting hit.

Yeah, no.

Sorry older bros, but you hit like preteen girls compared to this guy.

When he hit me, it was like getting hit by a wave of water, only the water was filled with the world’s history of punching fists. I literally dropped my hands to my sides and stood there, dumbstruck and hurt. I wasn’t hurt in the way we think of pain. I was hurt in a cataclysmic way. I was hurt with knowledge. I was hurt with the understanding that I wasn’t even remotely the tough guy I thought I might be, and that every single person on this planet who is not a boxer or some kind of trained fighter is an absolute pansy by comparison.

But you know me… I prefer being pummeled.

So I picked up my hands and started dancing again, ready to unleash pansy fury on this guy.

And then he hit me again, only this time in the guts.

I turned around to see if my spine might be located on the far wall.

So, I’m not a boxer.

Now that we have that straight, let’s get back to the analogy. You can be beaten to a pulp by the proverbial fight for whatever you’re trying to achieve, but the thing you have to remember is that you’ve been doing damage, too. To keep with the boxing analogy, it may be the twelfth round and you feel too exhausted to come out of your corner and go a final round with your opponent, but the thing to remember is that your opponent is tired and damaged, too, and that the winner will likely be the one who’s simply willing to always walk out of that corner, put up the gloves, and keep effing swinging, even when all hope seems lost.

So I rewrote.

And we sent it back to Thomas & Mercer.

And they bought it.

And I raised my fists.

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