A few years ago, I found myself in a writing lull. Despite the fact that I went to school for writing, was a journalist by profession and freelancer by choice, I made the mistake that most writers warn against: I stopped writing. I had started a work of fiction and decided to wait for inspiration. One of the first tips in any writing manual is that you should never wait for the perfect moment or the perfect inspiration because it does not exist. I believe one needs to experience this for these words to resonate. I found myself waiting for the “right time” to work on my book, and then I had a baby. Everything changed. There was no “right time” – in fact, there was no time at all. Sleepless nights, soothing, feeding and keeping up with everything else – whatever my definition of time was, it went flying out the window.
I longed to be able to do two things I love most – practice yoga and write. I quickly realized that escaping away to a quiet spot to write was impossible at this point in my life. My mind was too tired to generate ideas, so I decided with the little time I had, to dedicate myself to my yoga practice. That is where the lessons and inspiration began.
Yoga as a discipline
As I began to practice regularly, I realized that yoga was becoming a discipline for me. When I could practice, my mind would automatically shift gears and all the activities during the day faded out of my mind. The thing about discipline is that it takes a while to cultivate but gradually becomes a habit. That’s exactly what writers say about writing – the rituals of working on those morning pages or picking a specific time to write, whether you are inspired or not, garners discipline. Eventually, the writer’s day is incomplete without writing. When I reinitiated my daily yoga practice, I found myself missing it on the days I was unable to practice. It became a habit, something my mind and body needed; a compulsive passion.
No perfect practice, no perfect time
Childbirth, surgery and injury have taught me that my practice will change, evolve, and never remain the same. Remember this: there is no perfect practice. Perfection lies in getting to the mat, setting your intentions and completing the practice you are ready for on that particular day. Similarly with writing, there is no perfect piece, no perfect writing session. So much of my writing is giving myself permission to write poorly at first, to ignore that self-correcting voice within me and just try. Some days I love what I write and sometimes I utterly hate it, but what matters is that I took the time to do it and kept it in my daily routine.
Just like waiting for the right time to write, I used to wait for the right time for yoga. It was when I felt most energetic, most peaceful, and most philosophical that I felt empowered to practice. But how often are we synced in such a way in our busy lives? With my new life as a parent and constant nurturer, with my limited schedule, I now fit yoga in even if I have as little as ten minutes. You can find me in certain poses while the rice is boiling or doing Agni Sara in the shower!
A fellow writer once told me she used to write on rolls of toilet paper when inspiration hit her. I love stories of writing compulsively because they are so inspiring. It isn’t necessary to sit down at a desk to achieve writing; sometimes we have to get creative in finding balance in our everyday lives. I’m learning to accept that a few minutes on the bus could be where my best pages come from.
Get to the mat, get to the journal
“Just get to the mat,” all my yoga teachers have advised. “Get to the journal,” all my writing teachers have advised. Sometimes when I get to the mat, I have no energy at all. On those days, it’s easy to call it quits and get on the couch to watch TV. Instead, I proceed with a gentle or restorative practice – it may not be what I had in mind that day, but it’s better than nothing. In the same vain, sometimes when I get to my computer or journal, I cannot deliver what I thought I would. If I can’t work on a particular piece, it helps to write whatever comes to mind wether it be the inability to write, the leak in the bathroom or the TV show I would rather watch. It doesn’t matter if I do not meet a word count or not. I’m learning to be kind and patient to myself, which is imperative to any art and any practice.
What my yoga practice has taught me more than anything is that I will not become a master yogi overnight. Any art needs to be nurtured, built day by day and block by block (quite literally). I cannot expect myself to be the most flexible yogi overnight. Writing also takes patience, as it takes years to finish books and the process is ever evolving. Day by day, word by word, edit by edit, the writing will get there, and until then it’s important to enjoy and accept the process. One of the most inspiring ideas for me is in Anne Lamott’s book on writing ‘Bird by Bird’. Her brother was working on a school project about birds and their father, a writer himself, advises him to address the overwhelming task by working on one bird at a time. This is an important lesson to us all in all areas of life.
Outlining a practice
When I get to the mat, I have a vague idea of what I want to do that particular day. Whether it be to work on a certain spot in my body or emotion I’m experiencing or struggling with. Setting my intentions helps me guide my practice and motivates me. Outlining a plot is equally as important but I have always found this intimidating.The parallel of outlining my yoga practice has helped me think through the hiccups of my work and push forward. Having a goal is half the battle won.
Yoga is helping me write, page by page and pose by pose. I am nowhere close to writing as much as I would like to, but each day gets better and easier. Yoga is a way of life, a philosophy that trickles down to all parts of our lives if we are mindful and allow it.