WRITING AS YOGAIla Campbell
As you might have read in my previous blog entry, I’ve started a yoga class. The other night during class my mind was wandering. (As it often does because all the patter is in Korean – which is a good thing because I’d really rather not know that the contortion I’m currently trying to perform is called the ‘squatting dog,’ thank you very much.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah. My mind was wandering. I was looking around the class trying to ignore that the instructor’s knees were behind her ears and realized that taking this class was a lot like my initiation into the RWA (Romance Writers of America), and writing in general. So bear with me as I try to twist and bend my words to fit my thoughts.
I discovered the yoga studio exactly when I needed it most. I’d been losing weight through watching my diet, but had gotten to the point where I was going to have to work to make any more progress. It was also practically across the street, which was necessary because I have a history of not wanting to leave the house to do something as time-consuming and dull as exercising. A hundred yards turned out to be the magic distance I was willing to cross each day to get to that exercise. And at the end of those 100 yards was someone who would FORCE me to keep going – give me the encouragement, the guilt, the threats to continue. They were going to notice and hold me responsible if I was absent or not giving 100%.
My induction into the RWA was very similar to this. I’d always wanted to write novels and dabbled at it, but never really got serious about it. Finally I made the decision to DO it. In seeking some advice from a published author (whom I audaciously bothered with my uneducated questions without even knowing her), I was very nicely asked, “Why don’t you join the RWA?”
The right place at the right time. Distance seemed to be a problem at first, as I live some 8,000 miles from the headquarters, but the Internet was just hitting its groove and I was able to join the on-line Outreach chapter and the mid-Michigan chapter (where I was originally from). At the other end of the magic modem were the people to encourage, guilt and threaten me into doing my writing much more than I would have on my own.
Both of these activities (yoga and writing) I entered into with much trepidation. Did I really want to expose my oversized butt (overblown prose) to everyone else and become an object of ridicule? I could just hear them thinking, “What is she doing here?” “What makes her think she’ll ever be able to do this?”
I gritted my teeth and went anyway. And sure enough, in class I was the oldest, least limber, most uncoordinated person. My left side doesn’t want to move, my ankles WON’T move, and I can’t get my head anywhere near my knees without snapping some bones in the process. I went for two days and I was in pain. My stomach muscles screamed if I coughed or sneezed, I was sure I wasn’t going to go back on Monday.
I’m sure most of us felt like this when we first showed our writing to others. Our dialogue is not snappy, we can’t understand pov, we CANNOT write a synopsis. The first time we get back a critique we want to quit and die in shame because we were not as linguistically limber as we believed ourselves to be.
Yet I kept on, just like you. I had a goal. I wanted to tighten up my frame and feel healthy again. I wanted to get published. I had to continue.
Yoga instructors are like agents and editors, or even best-selling authors. They are scary, unfriendly characters who have power over what you do and how you do it and hold professional judgment over it. They know all the secrets, the tricks, and you’ll never be admitted into their circle. That is, until you get to know them better. Despite their unnatural abilities, they’re just people who don’t do everything perfect. Just from our own, insecure, point of view do they seem that way.
But if you stick it out, you begin to see improvement. The first time you make that stretch, you can’t grab hold of your feet (nail down that characterization). Then the next time, you can make it as far as the ankle (you’ve discovered how to add endearing flaws), until at last you have a tenuous hold on your toes (you’ve finally figured out conflict)!!!
Are we going to be able to do the ‘twisted monkey’ pose on the first try? No. Can the instructor or even some of the class members do it? Maybe. But that shouldn’t matter. We need to stop looking around at what everyone else is doing in the mirror and concentrate on those muscles we’re stretching out. It’s the hours of exercise plus natural talent that make up the equation for mastering any form of sport (or whatever you’d classify yoga as). We all start out with differing amounts of these, so we’re all going to reach our goals at different times.
Meanwhile, keep your head down, focus inward, and S-T-R-E-T-C-H.