I think we can agree that reading is essential. If you’re like me (and I’ll bet you are), certain books you read and the impact they had propelled you to begin writing in the first place. Then pretty soon, you found yourself copying down your favorite sentences from your favorite books or reading the same books over and over again. You may not have even known that by doing this you were becoming a writer.
When I am struggling to write, one of my internal editor’s favorite disparaging comments is, “Who do you think you are? Give it up. You’ll have more time to read all the really good writing out there.” This particular comment comes from a well-worn path made by my thoughts and actions based in the fear that I am somehow less than everyone else: less talented, less intelligent, less worthy of love.
When my collaborators and I decided that the topic for Sunday on this blog should be reviews of books and articles, I happily stepped forward to write the first review. I read often and closely. I feel helpless if I have a book to read and no pencil in hand to converse with the text in the margins. I’ve read plenty I can review. However, when it came down to deciding where to start, my confidence waned. I thought I’d write about Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg since that was the first book on writing I ever read and still the most inspiring (perhaps nothing can ever compare to a book read at sixteen that bids you to follow your heart?). I considered articles and books, including the book that I’m reading this month with my writer’s book group (The Sense of An Ending
by Julian Barnes). I considered books I have read specifically to fuel my current fiction project, a collection of stories exploring one woman’s relationship to food.
Until I sat and began to type, I remained mired in indecision. Each word typed made clearer the review I needed to write and why.
I first tried practicing yoga when I was fifteen years old. In the near quarter century that has passed since that curious, self-conscious time, my practice has whispered and roared, but there hasn’t been a time when I gave up practicing at all. I keep my mats, blankets, and props always where they can be easily taken out. I keep enough open floor space that a mat can be thrown down without having to move the furniture around. Is it coincidence that this is the same path my writing has taken? No. In fact, when I consider that question the answer is so obvious it makes my eyes water.
Yoga allows me to cut through the crap that goes through my mind and keeps me from writing. In the past year, my yoga practice has been a whisper, 10 minutes here or there, a full practice once a week, sometimes once a month. This has something to do with how much has changed in my life of late. Three years ago, I was married and teaching three yoga classes a week. Since then I have divorced, fallen in love, moved from a small apartment I shared with my teenage son to a house shared with my boyfriend and his two children too. My life is fuller and more chaotic. I am still reeling from the change, finding my way.
Yoga Mind and Body by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre is proving a kind guide back into a roaring practice. The sequence has many of my favorite poses and takes two full-color pages per asana to show and describe. The sequence is right for beginners (which some days is where I am) and adaptable to advanced practice. Most importantly for where I am in my practice is that the book leads you asana-by-asana through a full and honest yoga practice that begins and ends with relaxation. Right now, I need to be led in this way, though at times I have practiced every day without ever opening a book on yoga at all.
Is it a coincidence that the very week after I found this book and began using it to make yoga happen, the writer’s block I had been struggling with for weeks broke and I finished one story and began another? Of course not.
For me, it’s yoga. There are many meditative practices that keep our egos in check so we can do our work and do it well. Cooking. Walking. Swimming. Breathing. Biking. Gardening. There are times when all I am doing is these things and I feel guilty because I am not writing. Were those three wordless weeks truly writer’s block? Or was I preparing myself for the writing that was bound to happen?