Downward facing writer
Part of this comes from the postpartem blues of finishing the previous book. When we are gliding toward the finish line, I am giddy with energy and good vibes. And oh, that moment when we get to type THE END! Rapture.
But as soon as that manuscript flies away on its FedEx wings, I crash. I sit around in a stew of depression, doubt and despair. Is this going to be book where they discover we are frauds? Will I ever come up with another decent idea?
My funk goes on until Kelly finally kicks me in the ass and we start rolling the boulder back up the hill again. But this week, I realized I had to do something drastic, something preferably not involving pharmaceudicals. So I went back to my yoga class.
I used to be a very attentive yogi. It seems to sooth my demons, make me braver at facing the computer. Maybe this has something to do with endorphins? All I know is I always seem to write better after an hour of saluting the sun and standing on my noggin.
The thing I like about yoga is that it is very good for A-type personalities. In a yoga class, there is no way to compete, no way to measure your worth by outside standards. If you get hung up on the fact that the woman next to you can do a better lotus than you? Well, you've missed one of the points of yoga. Which is:
You. Only you. And your own progress. At your own pace.
Which, when you think about it, is great advice for any writer. See, we tend to get all bent out of shape by worrying about things outside our control. Like, how come Author X got a huge advance when he writes crap? Like, why did Author Y get a starred review in PW and I can't get any notice? Like, why does Author Z get a a 10-city tour and I can't get my local Barnes & Noble to let me sit at a cardtable and try to hawk a few books?
God, we all worry so much now about promotion and marketing. We're all afraid we aren't doing enough to push our books. Aren't talking up enough librarians, doing enough drive-by signings, attending enough conventions. We fret about pod-casting, viral marketing, networking, blogging, slogging and dogging. We spend so much creative energy trying to think of ways to separate ourselves from the pack, it's a wonder we have any juice left for writing.
When I was just starting out, I found myself at an MWA luncheon sitting next to Jan Burke. This was not long after she won the Edgar for "Bones." I was an awed newbie, and I said something stupid about how the bad writers seemed to get all the attention. She was kind and said all writers get jealous. And she added something I will never forget:
"You have to keep your head down and just write your books."
Five books later, Jan Burke is still there, making the New York Times list with her newest "Kidnapped." And me? I am trying to live by her words and the lesson of my yoga class -- that the only person I am in competition with is me.
So, if you -- like me -- need an attitude adjustment, I highly recommend some yoga. I'll even give you a few basic exercises to get you started:
YOGA FOR WRITERS
The King Dancer position. This is very good at helping you build balance. To do this pose, fix your gaze on something that doesn’t move so that you don’t lose your balance. Like maybe writing the best book you can?
The Fish Pose: It is good for developing flexibility. Because sometimes, you have to go in directions you didn't consider. Like abandoning a moribund story or trying a new POV. Or maybe adapting a pen name. If you need help with this pose, put a blanket under your head. Or read a book by an author you admire.
The Goddess: This pose helps you open yourself up. If this feels uncomfortable, you can use some folded blankets to prop up the spine. Or, find a good critique group to lend you some support.
The Crow: This is a hard one, but worth learning. Do not let your head drop! This will cause you to tip forward and fall. But don't worry; everyone falls when learning this pose. Just like every writer fears falling flat on their face, even the great ones.
The Headstand: Very good for getting the blood to your head and increasing overall circulation. Practice the pose at the wall. Try to move further from the wall each time, or remove one foot and then the other from the wall to practice balancing. You can't master this one in one try. And you can't become a successful writer overnight. It takes years of hard work and practice.
The Tree: Another good balance pose. If you cannot bring your foot high inside the high, bring it lower. In other words, lowering your expectations isn't always a bad thing. If you don't make the New York Times bestseller list on your first three books -- What? You're gonna quit? No, you keep trying and eventually your leg (or book) will go higher than you ever thought it could.
The Wheel: This is an advanced pose, mastered only after you've achieved strength and balance. Same goes for a writing career. You hang around long enough, you might become a big wheel. Need help with this pose? Have someone stand behind you and hold their ankles instead of putting the hands on the floor. Likewise, if you've got a spouse or family behind you, you can conquer the world.
The Pose of the Child: Rest in Child’s Pose at any time if you get tired or out of breath. Rejoin the class when you are ready. In other words, don't forget to take some time off, kiss your wife or husband, and play with your kids. Writers often forget the value of recharging the old batteries. You can't write about roses if you never take time to smell them.
Namaste, my friends...