The Practice of Curiosity.

stay curious

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I wonder…

Those two small yet powerful words help me to break through creative blocks, fear and stagnation.

I often forget them when I am in the midst any of those those three things or some combination of them.

But when I remember, they are the key that sets me free.

When faced with an impending empty nest I found myself thinking, ” I wonder if I should take Yoga Teacher Training.”

My class, “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace” came into being when I wondered how writing and yoga intersected and wondered how they could nourish each other.

When I hit a block in my work-in-progress, any “I wonder’ will get the pen moving. What is written may not stay in but that is not the point of curiosity. The point is to generate some movement.

Fear equals stagnation.

Stagnation begets stagnation.

Curiosity is light. It doesn’t come in hot demanding that I change and DO something, fix it, fix everything now.

No, curiosity invites me to sit down and play.

No pressure to fix something.

No pressure to fix everything with my next action.

It just asks me to wonder.

To ask what if.

And that gentle invitation is all I need to step out of fear, out of stagnation and back into the cycle of creative energy.

Curiosity only does one thing

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The Company of other Writers.

Write Smart, Write Happy

Today, I find myself sitting at the bookstore cafe with a grande soy chai, notebook and laptop open. Not an unusual scenario.

What is unusual, these days, is for me to be drawn to a book on writing. A book that promises to help me “become a more productive, resilient, and successful writer.”

Now, I used to devour these books daily when I first knew I wanted to write. It was how I taught myself to write. I read books on writing fiction, writing essays, writing from prompts, writing practice, the writing life, writing goals. You name it, I bought it and read it. What I didn’t do was write very much.

Oh, I’d write Morning Pages and I filled notebooks with writing practice gleaned from Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” I loved how she made writing so much more accessible by declaring that just as an athlete practiced drills or a pianist practiced scales, a writer also needed to practice. It bought writing back from that lofty pedestal I had placed it on. It took the fear out of it by calling it practice.

I hunkered down into my writing practice for years, filling notebook upon notebook. The problem was, I got stuck in practicing. Don’t get me wrong. It served me well. I learned to put pen to page and write under pretty much any circumstance. I learned how to make space and time for writing in the life I was currently living ( a stay-at-home mom with young children) instead of waiting for the perfect time. I learned to write past my censor.

But I didn’t use what I had learned to actually get in the game of writing. When I finally began writing stories, taking classes and workshops, that’s where the bulk of my learning took place. Writing and finishing stories taught me how to write.

I’ve written dozens of short stories, some published, some not. I have a completed novel-in-stories (looking for an agent). I am well into my second novel, about 6o,000 words into the first book of a YA fantasy trilogy and am beginning to gather notes for a memoir on writing and yoga.

So, with all that writing under my belt, why  do I find myself drawn to this particular book today?

Because it’s a process.

Because I am always a student.

Because I am not afraid to be a beginner.

Because of course I want to be a more productive, resilient and successful writer.

Because now I know that I can read a book like this but, more importantly, I know I have to follow through with action: writing, querying, submitting, reading, setting goals and meeting those goals.

I know there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to being a writer.

I know that merely reading about becoming a successful writer is not enough but I am humble enough to be open to advice from others along the path.

I know that I am willing to put in the hard work necessary. And these kinds of books feel like my own personal cheerleading squad, telling me I can do it. Telling me that I am not alone.

Telling me that it’s okay, that we can walk this path together.

I am grateful for their company.

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!