Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Punch Cement - for Writers

DISCLAIMER: It would be idiotic to read this article, go out and buy some cement, and without any preparation, training, or hands-on guidance attempt to punch through it - ‘nuff said.

note: in this video I am striking with a kubotan in my hand.

If you saw me after my last Tae Kwon Do testing, with my wrist in a cast, you would not read any further. Yes, I punched cement and the cement won. Only it wasn’t a normal concrete block; the one I attempted, unwittingly, was reinforced. It’s constructed to be unbreakable - and you know what? It is. Had my block been normal concrete, I would have punched through it, as I had in the past, as if it was butter. Okay, not butter - something crispier and with more crumbs.

Why would anyone do that? I do it because I can. It’s a brain training exercise. It’s about understanding mind over matter. This doesn't always work. Ask my friend who just attempted a mind-over-matter walk over a path of hot coals. There wasn't a happy ending. She had major burns on her poor feet. But unlike coals, which I know nothing about -
 punching through a concrete slab is a matter of physics, focus and will.

The first thing to remember is the idea of dispersal. You are applying force. Energy can be focused on a small space thereby increasing the force; or, it can be spread over a large space dispersing the force. Think of this in terms of high-heeled shoes. A high-heeled shoe will leave a little dimple in a wooden floor where a flat heel will not. The smaller you can get your strike - the more successful you will be.

Second, the goal is not to aim for the cement. The cement creates the top of a table and two blocks create the legs. This gives room for the strike to follow through and for the debris to fall to the side. The aim, as in all punches, is not the point of contact but the other side of the contact. Ignore the cement and try to punch the floor. If you are aiming for the floor, your force will not stop when it feels cement - your force will drive further down towards your intended goal and the cement will break on the way.

Okay - why write about this? First for people trying to reach a goal...The goal is an end point. What can you see on the other side? What happens next? If you aim for what comes next - the other side of your goal, you have to pass through your point of intention on the way. The point of intention can look big, daunting, and undoable, but if it’s just a point along the way, it looses its overwhelming quality. Do you think I really want to punch cement? No - it looks impassable. (and if it’s reinforced it is indeed impassable). It is daunting; because of this, I would flinch, hesitate, and hold back. If I had any of these reactions, there is no way that my fist is going through that cement. I will probably just end up hurting myself.

As a writer how can I apply this? Breaking cement is what I think about when people tell me they have writers block. I don’t personally believe in writers block. I think that the aim is too shallow, and that’s why the writing isn’t swinging through. Try not aiming for the block - don't keep punching at an impassable object. Instead, put a word or two in to hold the place and aim for the floor. The floor here being the completed project. I bet as you swing through, towards the goal, that the block will crumble.

And what about the idea of concentrated force? Writers that I know are tweeting, blogging, reading, writing, researching… doing too much? Maybe trying physics would be helpful. Dispersing force, from a physics stand-point, is ineffectual. What I have learned in punching cement is that I should focus on a small target. The smaller the strike area, the more focused energy. When I am writing my manuscripts, I take a vacation from interruption. I aim my focus to the other side of the goal. I take a deep breath, and I strike through. You might want to try this technique. I bet you'll crush it!

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


  1. It's been a couple years and you're all healed up now. I think it's time for a refresher and a YouTube video (on un-reinforced concrete of course)! For those of us considering trying it at home... then we won't need to. ;)

    1. I have a better idea, Rebecca, why don't you come visit me, I'll teach you how, and video tape the results :) Hahaha!
      I'll see what can do about an update.

    2. You know, that's oddly enticing. Part of our summer road trip?

    3. Your wish is my command, LOL Your turn. Oh wait, you jumped out of a plane... you win no cement required.

  2. And thus a warrior is made. Don't try this at home.

  3. Great advice! Focus, focus, focus.
    A meal is made up of many small bites. Oddly enough, through experience, I learned that I would get a slap up side of the head should I try and eat the meal all at once.
    Same thing with my writing.
    Taking tiny bites is the key to success.

  4. I like the metaphor at least while it's wet. I finished my blog-novel but I lay the foundation by posting segments of it on my actual blog. It doesn't allow indents and takes out all extra spaces. But I wanted indents so I wrote down   three times to get an indent[oh geez, if this box doesn't take html that's not going to look right -- oh well]. That looked good but it was making cement. I had to take that out for the print book and just use the space bar. Fine. And page breaks. Good. The cement was thickening and drying. And now I'm doing the ebook and both are wrong. I'm punching the replacement function which works but the tedium is like reinforced concrete and I'm using a chisel.
    The problem here is that the finished, published ebook might be the floor in terms of sales... Oh, then I guess I should punch up(sky's the limit). Well, one of my characters punches the wall to show anger so maybe that's a guide -- it's only plaster board and it's easy. Now I have to figure out how to avoid the beams.