Effort and Surrender

As a longtime yoga practitioner, I have spent many hours on the mat in a variety of asanas, or poses. Over time, I have developed some personal favorites: triangle, pigeon, seated bound angle, to name a few. I also confess that I don’t like several poses: bridge, especially when held for a long time, and anything in the warrior series. It’s no coincidence that the ones I like best are those that come most easily. Doing them, I feel the pleasure and joy of yoga, which increases with age as my body continues to open and extend like a much younger person.

Yet we commit ourselves equally to the poses that are harder to do. I remember struggling with half moon, a balancing pose, for months on end. For some reason, my body didn’t understand the pose, and it probably took two years before I could do the pose comfortably and consistently. I was determined to master the pose and kept at it, and the day I could do it well I felt as though I was flying. Same thing with upward bow. I can’t always do this pose, but when I do, I am exhilerated.

As a writer, I have had the interesting challenge this past year of the relatively easy novel (Change of Plans) and the difficult novel (Blood and Loam). With Change of Plans, I had trouble getting started, but once I had the beginning in place, I finished the first draft in about three months. I continue to refine and revise while I send out queries, but I find this novel deeply satisfying, pleasurable, and fun.

Blood and Loam, which has now morphed into a new genre and first person point of view, has frustrated me. In its umpteenth revision over a period of years, I still haven’t quite captured what I want to with the story. I’m closer than I ever was, and when I switched to first person and moved the setting to 1970, it took on a whole new life. New possibilities opened up, and I saw a deeper opportunity in the story to address my serious concerns about our current political landscape by drinking from the well of another turbulent time–all within the small story of love and betrayal in a small Midwestern town.

Some years ago, I had been taught to believe that if something was meant to be, it would feel effortless. Certainly that has proven true with Change of Plans, but I don’t agree that this is true in all cases. Yes, it’s true that many novelists have that one novel in their drawer that they worked on forever, that came to nothing in the end. Maybe Blood and Loam will end up there. I don’t know that yet. I believe that the act of working on it, just as with the act of practicing a difficult yoga pose, will deepen me as a writer, and so I continue.

Now I’m off to do that other difficult writing pose, the query letter!

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By the way, if you want more ideas on connecting yoga to writing to help open creativity, check out Jeff Davis’s The Journey From the Center to the Page.

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