It’s so hard to stay motivated to write.

I can’t really pin down why I keep at it. Writing is a vital skill—one I want to hone—but it doesn’t come easy to me. I also want to teach what I’ve learned and what I’m still figuring out.

I discovered I like to teach when I was still a student in the intermediate phase of flight school. During the transition to flying jets, we spent a lot of time at first just learning to fly in formation. One of the basic maneuvers during this part of the syllabus was called a breakup and rendezvous, or B&R, which is a drill that lets a student get multiple repetitions joining up with a lead aircraft.

In short, this drill has the wingman fall in trail of the lead, beginning the rendezvous when the lead begins to turn. In order to join up, the wingman flies towards the center of lead’s turn and then matches the turn, gradually flying towards lead. The student is graded based on altitude, closure, and bearing-line control. The goal is a very precise and predictable maneuver.

I’ve probably joined on another airplane thousands of times since then, but it used to be so damned hard to do well. We had manuals and instructors but things only improved with repetition. Through trial and error, I came up with my own deliberate system of specific control inputs at particular sight pictures, which allowed me to be more consistent. This would be akin to following a recipe, rather than cooking based on feel or experience. In short, the drill became much easier.

One day a few of us students were hanging out in the ready room commiserating about how hard training was, when one of the guys said he was having trouble with B&Rs. I told him about the technique I’d used to get better, and he said he was going to give it a try himself.

I’ll never forget the next morning when I ran into him again, and he told me he’d had great success using my method. He was so grateful . That’s when I became hooked on teaching. I remember being surprised it was possible to teach while I still had so much to learn, and how teaching someone else led to further improvement in my own flying.

After a few more years as a student, I went on to teach nearly every aspect of flying and fighting jets for the next 15 years. I still love it when a student figures something out for the first time, and now here on With the Grain, I’m trying to teach some of the other aspects of my life.

Writing all this out seems to have brought back my motivation. Funny how that happens sometimes.