Embarking on the journey of writing my first novel was incredibly daunting initially. So much so, that I delayed its genesis for a while. Overall, Battle Tested took about two and a half years to complete. I wrote as often as I could, and music was a big help in getting my brain waves flowing. Anytime I experienced writer's block, which happened occasionally, I would just take a break and revisit the stoppage the next day. The interviews I conducted were to provide first-hand accounts from other points of view. The reason I performed so much research and documented so many resources is because I wanted to provide facts, background, and to expound on my points. Once I got into a writing rhythm, composing became fairly smooth. The tough part came towards the end of book when it came to formatting, publishing, finding a designer for my cover, and things of that nature. All in all, the experience has been worthwhile and I encourage anyone else considering a book to take the leap of faith and do it.
While attending the Academy, one of the first things I noticed was how different my background was from most of the cadets. Most came from two-parent households, or even had parents who attended the Academy before them. Consequently, my experience from a broken family made me feel inferior because I did not have that structure throughout my entire childhood.
As I went through the Academy, I observed how distinct my experience was as an athlete from cadets who didn't play a sport. Furthermore, playing football as a Black cadet made my encounter that much more unique. People always ask, "Jamal, what made you want to write a book?" Well, these circumstances are what first inspired me to do so.
As I began to write my book, I focused on different Academy experiences such as basic training, swimming class, and boxing. I soon realized that I needed to expand my timeline to include some of my life's encounters before the Academy in order to fully describe my reactions and reasoning behind my actions. As I went back in time, I continued to move back further for my story to make sense, evolving my original memoir into a full-length autobiography. My purpose also swelled as well.
Not only was my time at the Academy special, but the rest of my life has been full of extraordinary events, especially obstacles. I've overcome a lot in my life, so I wanted my book to not only highlight my struggles, but also overcoming them with the help of God. Emphasizing God's hands on my life, and perseverance, are the purpose of my book. I want people to know that they can surmount anything they are faced with as I did. Life is already hard by itself, so I encourage readers to make it easier with God as their ultimate helper.
Battle Tested has another focal point as well. Anyone from Tacoma can attest to the lack of notoriety and recognition we receive for attending school and playing sports there. Although it is medium-sized, Tacoma is a rough city, and its Public School academics leave a lot to be desired, to say the least. Athletics at Tacoma's high schools are inconsistent and the coaches aren't typically Mike Tomlin and Bill Belichick. Tacoma's smaller size hurts the recruitment of its high school athletes, although kids are often as talented, if not more than athletes in bigger cities. This creates an inherit motivation in most Tacoma athletes to beat the odds, overcome their environment, and prove colleges that overlook them wrong. So, I want upcoming Tacoma athletes to continue having that mentality, as the ones before them that made it look to pave an easier pathway for them. God bless!