My latest work in progress (WIP) is particularly challenging, taking me to dark recesses of the past, exploring notions just beyond my intellectual capabilities, and forcing me to rethink what I know about fiction. Every writing session is hard. That's how I know I'm on the right path - because it it were easy, I wouldn't be pushing myself, growing, or moving my skills to a higher bar. So how does one cope with this fear in all of its incarnations? How do you push through it towards completion?About my writing work, yoga teaches me to see my writing as work that has to be done - a responsibility and positive impetus rather than a vanity (another manifestation of fear). So next time you're struggling with the dragons of fear - call it what you will: block, self-doubt, other priorities, "no-time", try taking a 30 minute yoga break and see if that doesn't help. Breath through it. Even when it hurts. Then back to work. The world is waiting for you to change it.
My biggest ally against fear is to move my body. Exercise of all kind helps, but for me, there's nothing quite like either swimming, or doing yoga - two forms of exercise that have a mental impact on me - helping to clear my vision, work out intellectual problems with my stories, and teach me to cope with fear. Both swimming and yoga are what I call breath practices. They involve engaging your breath and using the breath to propel and lengthen the muscles. Being quite small boned, I tend to get cold easily and it's often too cold to swim. I don't much like heated indoor pools (the chlorine doesn't agree with me), so I tend to do quite a lot of yoga. Yoga is amazing for writers. Here are three reasons why yoga is a natural ally for the writer:
- It helps teach us to see writing as a practice, rather than an end point. We keep moving along the writing path, growing, changing, and pushing towards wisdom and expression. It's not possible to fail, no matter how hard it is, when you have this perception.
- It teaches you to breathe. Ah, breath. How simple and yet how powerful. Breathing is the perfect antedote to fear. I first found out how powerful it was when I was in labour with my first child, screaming in pain. An angel of a midwife came to me and taught me to breath slowly, deeply, with my full body and I calmed down and got to work. I've turned to breath again and again in times of stress, strive, and fear, and it never fails to remind me of the transience of each moment and the need to work, calmly, through the panic.
- It teaches patience. Sometimes the right words take time to come. You have to keep showing up, doing the exercises, stretching, breathing and working towards the vision.