I can’t stop thinking about how my yoga practice equates to writing. In a Mysore-style Ashtanga class (which is how I do my daily practice), students of all levels arrive whenever they want within a specific window of time. Everyone learns the practice the same way, starting at the beginning with the fundamentals before going into the primary series, and so on. The sequence is always the same. How far you go, how strong you grow, how bendy you become–these are all contingent upon a dedicated practice. But everyone begins in the same place.
The biggest difference between Mysore-style class and led class is that the teacher isn’t standing in front of you describing every pose to you. Your teacher teaches you slowly, bit by bit. One pose today. Maybe another pose in a few weeks. Maybe another pose in a month. It’s up to you to memorize it all. It’s up to you to keep it in your head, to find your own motivation and drive your practice.
Throughout the class students come and go as they start and finish their own independent practices. If you’re truly focused on your breathing and your pose and your gaze at all times, you have no idea what’s happening around you. It doesn’t matter what’s happening around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing next to someone who’s deep into the intermediate or advanced series while you’re still finishing the fundamentals. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor looks like a ballerina when she does her jump-throughs while you feel like a wounded swallow flapping around on the floor. The point of the practice is to focus inward on yourself.
I recently brought a friend to try out my style of yoga for a month. She kept saying, “I’m afraid of looking stupid.” I kept telling her, “Nobody is watching.”
It’s the same thing with writing. It’s up to the writer to have the dedication and discipline to work every day, whether s/he feels like it or not. There are other writers in the same metaphorical room, breathing the same air, pumping away at the same creative electricities in the brain. It doesn’t matter how much farther those other writers have gotten in their careers. We all had to start in the same place. In the pursuit of writing we’ve all experienced the same struggles, the same epiphanies. In an ideal world, if we’re really focused on our own projects and stories, we shouldn’t even have the time or energy to worry about how we’re doing in comparison to the other writers around us.
Writing, like yoga, is a solitary pursuit. We’re so happy to share the result, to have people read our work. But it’s a rocky path that leads there, and it’s a path that exists within our minds where no one else can follow.
Nobody is watching. This is why the discipline is so important. The writer must decide: Yes. Today I will practice.