East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Back when I was a geology student (yes, I wax nostalgic these nights), we went on a field trip in the Alps, in the Aosta Valley, to study the Matterhorn. Due to some sort of deal our teacher had struck, we were staying as guests in a religious institution. It was a very serious sort of place, verging on the positively dreary. The sort of very strict place in which a state of the art audio system was used every morning at 6 am to wake us up with a selection of Gregorian chants. It was something.

Until the last day. The previous night a commando of geology students sneaked in the control room and changed the tape and the following morning at 6 am we woke up, the amps turned up to 11, like this…

This, too, was something.

The above, just to explain I always had a soft spot for David Lee Roth.

And last night, after posting about the eclectic curriculum I put together etc., I caught a recent episode of the Joe Rogan podcast (I listen to the episodes via Youtube), which featured David Lee Roth as a guest, and over the three hours of the program not only my respect for the man and the artist grew a pair of notches, but I heard David Lee Roth describe a lot of his experiences (music, climbing, kayaking, martial arts, learning Japanese language and painting, becoming a certified emergency medical caregiver) as cross training.

Now, if you happen to be a sedentary slob like I am, maybe the concept of cross-training is not to the front of your conscious mind. To recap, according to Wikipedia:

Cross-training is athletic training in sports other than the athlete’s usual sport. The goal is improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of one training method to negate the shortcomings of another.


And I was listening to this old rocker on the radio (well, the internet radio) and I realized that cross-training is what I’ve been doing all my life, no matter what field I am focusing on.
I pursued an interdisciplinary curriculum in university (and was told “I don’t see why a paleontologist should take a course in geochemistry”), I took a mixed approach to my teaching (and was told “I don’t see why a course in statistics should include a field trip”), and as for writing, it’s been over thirty-five years now, since my earlier attempts using my mother’s Olivetti, that I have been all over the place – writing various genres, reading serious literature and popular fiction back to back, different languages, sketching to learn to observe, reading about poetry to improve my prose, writing as zen meditation, oral storytelling, using Tarot cards as writing tools…

Cross-training, babe.

I did not plan it.
I’m just an overly-curious, pretty disorganized, all-over-the-place sort of guy, with the attention span of a chipmunk.
Remember? The boy has too many interests.

Does it work?
For me it does – or even better, I am satisfied with the way it has worked out so far. I have met people a lot more focused, individuals whose every breathing moment is oriented to a single mission, a single target, a single purpose, pursued with absolute dedication, no distractions and total ruthlessness.
They scare me a bit.
Me, I’m as ruthless as the aforementioned chipmunk.

But hey, now I can say my approach has been validated by a honest-to-goodness rock star, one that is indirectly responsible for me being persona non grata in all the religious institutions of the Aosta Valley. And beyond.

I’ll try to write something better about this whole cross-training thing for writers in the future, in case anyone’s interested.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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