Stephen King’s writing process is well-known to be a war of attrition. According to King, in order to complete a book you have to chip away at it tirelessly, writing 1,000 words every day until, bloodied and spent, you’re left with a rough-hewn mess that resembles a first draft. Matthew “Griff” Griffin and Leo Jenkins don’t work that way.
Speaking to me from his home on the coast of Mexico, Jenkins explained that writing consistently is a foreign concept to him and not at all part of the strategy that he follows when crunching out a book.
“Writing is an art and a process,” he told me. “You can’t fuck with that process. You have to feel it inside you, and then you let it all out. Write when the pen is hot. You let the pressure build up … let the agitation occur.”
And considering that he completed 20 percent of his second book, “On Assimilation,” during a 12-hour layover in a Panama airport, it’s hard to argue with his logic or his process.
It’s this process — writing when the words boil inside of you, when the mind is restless, and the pen itches for release — that both Jenkins and Griff utilized when creating their latest book, “Steps Ascending: Rise of the Unarmed Forces.” From conception to first draft, editing to cover art, final polishing to publishing, the entire process was completed in a little less than 90 days.
Had someone told me such a thing could be accomplished in such a short space of time, I would have snorted contemptuously. But Jenkins’ previous published works are proof of his writing chops as well as his enviable speed when it comes to putting ideas to paper. And if I needed any more proof, “Unarmed Forces” is now there for all to see — and already a No. 1 new bestseller on Amazon.
The idea for the book was born out of a very banal phone call.
“Griff contacted me a little over two months ago and said simply, ‘I need a book,’” Leo laughed, recalling the moment. “There was no concept, but he just said that needed a book for his company to drop on Cyber Monday. He asked me for an idea. I went for a surf. When I got out of the water an hour later I had a rough draft conceptualized.”
‘It’s a way of eliminating a potential combatant by giving them an opportunity. It’s how we end the war through education.’
The original title of the book was meant to be “How To Win the War with Flip Flops.” While the current title is snappier and reads better, the first summed up the book’s content pretty succinctly. Because the essence of the book deals with just that: how war in the Middle East — a series of overdrawn conflicts that seems be a growing liability to the U.S. — won’t be resolved by the current tried-and-tested-and-failed strategy of dropping munitions until every enemy is dead, but rather by enforcing change from a different perspective.
A Flop of a Business
The book in its final form chronicles Griff’s business — Combat Flip Flops — and how they are working to end the war with a two-pronged, business-heavy attack. On the front end, this means creating employment; on the backend, it means providing a means for education.
With a staggering unemployment rate of 40 percent, opportunities in Afghanistan are scarce, even more so for women. Combat Flip Flops’ business model is geared toward changing that statistic by donating a portion of every sale to help create entrepreneurial opportunities in conflict zones. It aims to give communities the tools and resources to create their fortunes rather than, in desperation, picking up a rifle to survive and stake out a living for their families.
“It’s a way of eliminating a potential combatant by giving them an opportunity,” Jenkins said. “It’s how we end the war through education.”
It’s a slow process, one that will be completed one step at a time — and any good step needs footwear to protect it, even if it’s only a flip flop.
An Infinitely Scalable Model
Although flip flops are the least of it. Griff’s company also sells a number of different apparel options for men and women, as well as accessories made from unexploded ordnance dropped in Laos during the Laotian Civil War. Part of each sale is directed toward clearing Laos of these dormant bombs, which are still scattered all over the countryside and rural farmland over 40 years later. It’s an infinitely sustainable model that utilizes the problem in order to formulate the solution — only when there is no more product will the end goal be realized.
While Combat Flip Flops is doing its part to raise funds, it’s not the only player in this fight. Steps Ascending is contributing, too, and proceeds from the book are being funneled into the same programs in an effort to provide Afghan girls an education through school. On the day of the book launch alone, enough money was raised to put two girls through school — from grade school to matriculation, paid for in full. Every purchase of the book funds a day of school for an Afghan girl and actively contributes to end the war using business, not bullets.
‘Writing is an art and a process. … You have to feel it inside you, and then you let it all out. Write when the pen is hot.’
It’s in this way that Jenkins and Griff are facilitating the rise of the unarmed forces. Every opportunity created, every girl put through school, breaks a link in the chain that would otherwise put a gun in the hands of a disaffected and disillusioned would-be soldier. It’s exponentially powerful, and the knock-on effect created by educating women spreads like a ripple through the families they eventually go on to raise and the communities those people will eventually build. It’s an army without arms, but that doesn’t mean it’s without power.
This is why two U.S. Army Rangers put their heads together to churn out a book in an impossible timeframe. Not only to fund a business model that in turn is helping people to rebuild, but also to show that swift force, like an unrestrained urge to write, can be leveraged creatively and constructively with an endless proclivity for good.