Three Ways Writing Is Like Yoga

Thursday, June 07, 2018
At first glance, writing and yoga may not seem to have a lot in common. But there are at least three strong similarities.

1. Sometimes You Have to Compare Yourself to Others

Trying to follow instructions on how to do something, whether a yoga pose or a writing technique, can be tough. I’m paying close attention but all I get is something about my right leg and a twist and psoas muscles. Finally, I give up and glance at whoever is closest to me. Oh, that’s what she wants us to do? Once I have a visual it all makes sense.

Writing is the same way. You can read about how to pull your reader into your setting or how to craft dialogue that actually serves the story, but you need an example to take what you’ve read from the abstract to the concrete.

2. Sometimes You Have to Honor Where You Are and Quit Comparing

Comparisons are great for figuring out a technique, but once you’ve got that down you need to quit looking. The forward bend is not my friend. My hands will never ever touch the floor. Watching Holly do it just makes me want to push her over – a very anti-yoga emotion. Fortunately, yoga teaches us to honor our bodies. In yoga parlance, I do not have full access to the forward bend. Trying to do the impossible will simply lead to injury.

Comparing yourself to other writers can be just as damaging. We all have our favorite writers. But if I compare the draft of my first novel to Suzanne Brockman or Sarah Addison Allen, I’m going to freeze up. For one thing, I’m comparing my unpublished work to their published work. Mine is also an early novel and these are both multipublished fiction authors. Their work will be very different from mine, and that’s okay. We aren’t in the same place.

3. Balance Is Essential

Even when you do a stretch in yoga, balance is essential. Take your focus off your foundation and you are likely to topple over. I’m a bit famous for reaching just a bit too far and landing on my rump.

Yes, you need to study other writers to learn your craft. The pros are excellent examples of how to plot, to develop characters, and how to weave together plots and subplots. But at some point you need to quit focusing on their work. You need to develop your own style and your unique voice.
The publishing world already had a Suzanne Brockman and a Sarah Addison Allen. Now it needs you.

Writing and yoga. Both require you to be aware of your fellows while also knowing when to focus on your own work. Balance is required to do each at the appropriate time. Fail to achieve that balance and you are liable to land on your rump.

But that’s okay. We’ve all done it. The good news is that your fellow WOW writers can help you get up, rebalance and write. I should know. They’ve done it for me.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins July 9th, 2018.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Those are the issues I grapple with all the time. Yesterday in our class, we wrote eulogies for the things that should be dead or will die, by the end of the course (for example, the inner critic or self doubt). One of the teachers--in the 10-15 minutes of writing time we had--wrote a poem, which had perfect rhythm and rhyme. (It sounded completely natural and totally unforced.) She shared it, and we were all aghast and wanted to slash her tires--we were all envious.

Yes, we have to embrace our own abilities and limitations and be true to ourselves.

(Thanks. I can tell my friends I did yoga this morning. ;)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux ~ I just listened to a podcast yesterday that said women have 60,000 inner critic thoughts per day (!) that we have to battle against. I'm guessing as writers, we have even more. LOL. Guys have half of what women unfair. What an interesting exercise, and no wonder that teacher wrote an amazing poem. I think I'll have to try that exercise!

SueBe ~ I'm so glad to hear you do yoga! I love it and used to be able to do every single pose before I broke my ankle. I'm getting back into it now but it's kind of heartbreaking...I can't even put my heel on the ground in downward dog. My ankle doesn't bend anymore. :( Having to try harder than I did before is definitely making me appreciate what I can do. I think that applies to writing, too. Your advice to quit comparing and honor where you are is spot on.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Was this one of the teachers who knew what the assignment was going to be? If so, her piece had better be stellar!

Years ago, my husband and I came to the conclusion that men just don't have the same level of inner "noise" that women have. I kept asking, "what are you thinking" and his answer was always "nothing." Finally he asked what I was thinking, "Well, I have to get this reading done for class, I need to outline a paper, there the paper I need to finish drafting, and isn't your Mom's birthday coming up? When should we start dinner and..."

I'm glad you're back into yoga even if you can no longer bend your ankle. My ankles are a big part of my problem with forward bends, intense west stretch, and downward dog. My heels will never be on the ground. My instructor pressed my ankle here and there. "Your bone is really long. Right into your ankle. Most people have cartlidge starting here." So not a blasted thing I can do about it.

Now if I can follow this advice in my writing, oh that would be amazing.


Renee Roberson said...

Love this post, Sue. Thanks for the reminder on each of these bullet points! What is that famous quote "Comparison is the thief of joy?" I'm trying my best right now to honor where I'm at in my life and focus on keeping a balance essential to my sanity. I don't do yoga a whole lot anymore but I do exercise five times a week, and it's a great outlet for purging a lot of those 60,000 inner criticisms (Holy Smokes, Angela? Can that really be true?!)

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