Oof, the weeks have been disappearing! Everything feels so slow under the summer sun, but it’s like someone is secretly fast-forwarding my clocks on me.
I’ve been reading parts of Guruji again, which is a book about Pattabhi Jois and the Ashtanga yoga practice as passed down from him. I’ve been picking up this book in starts and stops over the last couple years whenever inspiration takes over and I can’t quit thinking about my practice.
I am, as I’ve said before, constantly amazed by how my yoga mirrors and informs my writing. Guruji said to his students, “Do your practice and all is coming.” He also famously said, “Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory.”
There are times when I look at those quotes and think that they’re telling me exactly what to do with my novel. Stop questioning. Stop doubting. Stop stressing. Just write, and write, and write. And all is coming. Or sometimes I read a few too many blog posts or books or essays or whatever about making good characters, building conflict, arranging the plot into a satisfying arc, etc. etc. — and I think to myself, Well, that was my 1%. Now get to work on the other 99%.
Going back to yoga — there are the days when I wake up in the morning and my body feels terrible. Sluggish and heavy. Or maybe burning with pain somewhere because my teacher’s added a new asana to my practice and my muscles and joints are still learning how to exist in that new context. Those are the mornings when yoga can be absolutely miserable. And those are the mornings when I think it’s most important to trust in the practice and let the mind go. Because the pain and the sluggishness are no more than conceits of the mind.
I think writing works the same way. There are the days when sitting down to work on the novel feels hard, and the writing itself is labored and slow. But there’s a lot that I’ve learned from Ashtanga and transmuted into my writing. Often it happens that as soon as I’ve accepted I only have 17 minutes to revise, or I probably won’t be doing my sharpest prose work that day — releasing the mind but still committing to the routine and practice — something in my brain unlocks itself. The words come tunneling out with a momentum of their own. The mind loosens up a stuck piece of a puzzle.
As the saying goes, good things take time. And for me, time seems to be hardest to come by in the summer season. This time of year my office hours change in a way that drastically interferes with the usual pace I set. I’m still chipping away at my projects. Revising. Setting deadlines. But also there are distractions galore. Friends visiting. The sun and the beach calling. New York’s best ice cream waiting to be found and consumed.
Each year as summer approaches I try to come up with a way to fight the distractions, to click into a higher gear. And each year I end up frustrated. But for what reason? I’m still doing the work. It’s okay to be slow sometimes. Impatience has never helped me, and it is my worst habit. What I need is to channel the patience I’ve developed through yoga into my writing.
So this summer I’m trying to forgive myself for not working quite as hard, and even to enjoy it a little. But still, that doesn’t mean letting go of the daily practice. Or I guess I should say practices. Yoga, and writing, and more writing. Meditation, too, whenever I can. And in the time that I do carve out for these, I try to remember to let the mind go. To just do the work. Practice, and all is coming.