Trains are hard to stop because they have lots of mass and they go fast. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
There is a simple lesson that artists of all kinds can learn from Applied Physics. Believe me when I say that, whether you are a writer, a painter, or a martial artist, the equation “F=MA” is directly relevant to you.
For those who don’t remember high school science, “F” is force, and it is equal to “M” (mass) times “A” (acceleration). A bullet is small and light, its devastating force caused by blinding speed.
If you are a martial artist, your mass is largely fixed. In competition there are weight classes. You and the person you are fighting have just about the same mass. The only way you can increase your force is by increasing your speed. Outside the ring, in self-defense, speed is still the answer to the quest for greater force. Nobody wants to put on a fifty extra pounds just to have a force advantage. Bruce Lee is remembered because of his philosophy and because he has ahead of his time, but it was his incredible speed that blew people’s hair back. If you have to slow down so that the best cameras of the day can capture your movements, you are fast. You have FORCE aplenty.
If you are a writer, think of mass as the quality of your work, acceleration is your production, and force as the impact you have on history, readers, movements, and markets. Yes, you can increase quality and have some success. But if you only write one really great book (think Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind) you may not be forgotten, but there’s a chance you’ll be remembered as a one trick pony or a fluke. Greatness, i.e. maximum force, comes with speed. Authors like Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Alexandre Dumas, Michael Moorcock, Charles Dickens, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Kurt Vonnegut produced dozens of excellent books and short stories. No one trick ponies on that list. That’s why I’ve set a goal to release at two books a year until I take my dirt nap (five so far). My plan is to leave behind an impressive body of work numbering over fifty books.
No matter what your field, it is consistent speed that will make you outstanding. People are impressed with savants who can quickly solve complicated math problems in their heads, not with someone who can do so with a pad and pen in fifteen minutes. Anybody can earn a million bucks in a thirty year career. Earn that much in a week and you’re a success guru. And so on.
But be prepared. There is also the formula E = mc2, a.k.a. the Theory of Relativity. What it postulates, in a nutshell, is that the closer you get to the speed of light the more energy is required and the more impossible it gets. In other words, going faster requires exponentially more work. That’s part of why it garners so much wonder, respect, awe, and admiration.
So while you’ll never reach light speed, there is every reason to try.