I imagine my stress like a meter inside me, a rising tide in my body. When it reaches the level of my heart, that’s usually the point where it impairs my writing. One trick I have to reduce it, to re-center, is to get my inflexible butt to a yoga class.
I suck at yoga because I don’t practice it enough to be good at it. I fall over when I try to do tree poses. I’m self-conscious about watching the expert students, worried they’ll think I’m checking them out. Yoga is messy, but welcoming. It’s very hard to walk out of a good class and still feel stressed out. I love Anusara best, because it’s about alignment and usually comes with a mini therapy lesson, something to think about while you’ll also pondering what your kneecap smells like.
I was editing last night, taking the red pen to double spaced printed pages that I’m reading aloud (I’ve thoroughly embraced this as the best way to edit and ensure no one sits near me in coffee shops), when I found a connection between yoga, where the instructor is always encouraging you to “go deeper” into the pose and my writing.
It was one of those strange little light bulb moments – A micro-epiphany about the craft. I found a decent little bit of description that while well written, was also a tell not show (something I am really hammering on in my writing). I marked the paragraph as “go deeper,” and this morning, when making the changes on the computer, that’s what I did – I took that paragraph and converted it to dialogue, used it to show one character’s insight and hint at the other one’s secrets. I turned a good bit of writing into something better.
Editing in this fashion, killing trees, paying close attention as you read aloud, is time consuming. Yet it’s a path to going deeper, to focusing your eye and ear where you can find little places to improve and polish. If you’re struggling, if you’ve hit a plateau, give the print and pen technique a try. And when writing stresses you out, try a yoga class. Say hi. I’ll be the guy in the back, falling over during tree pose.