A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

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“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott became my writing bible for a while. Her simple advice, her passion, her authentic, messy real self appealed to me on a deep level. She wasn’t afraid to admit to the hard parts of writing. She didn’t pretend that she sat down easily everyday as the words just flowed from her fingertips from some muse on high. In fact, the only muse she endorsed was the work. Showing up was the muse. To this day, I still use her advice: one-inch picture frame to write the next scene, shitty first drafts to write the thing at all and taking it all one word at a time.

Balancing Effort & Ease in Writing.

Effort & Ease

One of the more well-known Yoga Sutras states: “sthira sukham asanam.”

Translated it means: the posture is steady and comfortable. Sthira means steady, firm, resolute; sukham means comfortable, easy, gentle. Applying this to our asana practice, we try to strike that balance of exerting enough effort to be steady and strong in the pose, and enough ease to remain comfortable.

We balance our more active, strong yang practice with a softer, more restorative yin practice.

I’ve been noticing that when a teacher gives a cue, I go there 110 percent. Why? I don’t know. I like being a “good” student, so if she says do something I am going to do it. Lately, I’ve been easing up. I stop just when I feel the muscles engage, pausing, checking in to see if I actually need to go deeper for my body, or if my ego just wants to prove how awesome I am at yoga.

I enjoy exploring that balance between effort and ease in each pose, in my practice and in my life off the mat.

My writing practice is rich with the opportunity to practice “sthira  and sukham.” If I push too hard, trying to force a character to do what I think is needed for the plot, I usually end up writing myself into a corner, or not writing anything at all. When I step back and allow the character to go where she needs to, the writing begins to flow again.

Alternately, if I am too soft in my writing practice, only showing up for stream-of-consciousness (brain drain) morning pages, the work suffers. I need to put the effort in to writing my characters, the setting, and writing my way into each scene so that the story emerges.

Here are eight ways I strive to balance effort and ease in my writing practice:

(Read the full article here.)

Five on Friday

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1. Another awesome talk by Liz Gilbert on success, failure and creativity.

2. Creative blocks and how to bust through them.

3. Unconventional writing advice.

4. “Art journaling is about the {creative process} of pulling together color, words and images as you wish on a page. Unlike many other forms of art, it is not about the outcome.”

5. Thoughts on God, religion, faith, writing and love. “…that spirituality and making art are not such different practices. Both call upon the animating force of the unseen. “

Five on (Black) Friday

1. Very excited to be taking part in this challenge. It’s a great way to end the old year and start the new year:)

2. A writer gives thanks.

3. Pretty sure I’m an obliger. Love studying and learning about habits.

4. Love this essay!

5. Totally in love with this bracelet!

Five on Friday

1. 6 tips on being a more productive writer.

2. 10 pieces of writing advice from Sherman Alexie

3. I love lists, especially one written by Dylan Landis.

4. An interview with Andrea Barrett. I especially love this: “Until MFA programs became so common, people learned by imitation and by reading. If they were lucky, they also learned by conversation with fellow writers, but lots of people didn’t have that at first, either.”

5. Junot Diaz hates writing short stories.