The Yoga of Being a Writer

I had a conversation at a party a few years ago with a woman who wanted to be a writer.

Working on that pose.  Photo credit: Beverly Goodwin

Working on that pose.
Photo credit: Beverly Goodwin

“I’m really good,” she told me. “My adviser said that my thesis was one of the best she had ever read.”

“Well that’s a good start,” I replied. “Do you have a blog or a website?”

“Nope.”

“Do you belong to any writers’ groups?”

“No, I don’t have to, I’m already a writer.”

“Have you had anything published?”

“No, but I know I would be a really good writer if I was given an article to write.”

At this point my eyes started to glaze over. I tried one more time.

“Well, if you’ve written something and you’d like me to take a look at it I will.”

She huffed a tiny and polite breath, gave me an off look, and then excused herself to go find her husband. Later I found out that she told a mutual friend she couldn’t believe I didn’t recognize what a good writer she was and immediately offer her a writing assignment.

If you are a reader of this blog, you are probably rolling your eyes along with me (it never gets old) at this story. It’s one thing to have supreme confidence in your skill, it’s quite another to have that skill in the first place. I call myself a writer. I *am* a writer, but one of the reasons I love this craft is that I recognize it is ever changing.

I have never shoved my stick in the sand and declared that that’s it – I’m done with learning and this is where I stand. Instead, it’s more like, the tide sneaks up on me and swallows my stick. My stick is taken out to the rough surf where gasping and sputtering, I dive to retrieve it. When I go to plant my stick again, I learn to place it a little further up the beach than before, but you know what, I still don’t know if the tides will reach it again or not. It’s an active dance of moving progress and regression.

How do I keep retrieving my stick? I read, I write, I listen to feedback and I try new techniques – in short, I treat my writing as the job that it is.

Too many people think that writing is easy. “Oh, I should write a book someday.”

Writing is a craft – it’s an art. That’s one of the reasons I love being a writer. And just like any type of art it evolves. Techniques change (if you doubt me, compare blog writing to newspaper article writing), new insights are gathered and your internal sense of direction always gets refined.

Writing is definitely not easy (and question anyone who says it is.) It takes work, real work to get your story into words that will move others. It’s a discovery of you as much as it is a discovery of the intricacy of language. As in yoga, a writer needs to stay on her toes while holding a difficult pose. You need that balance, but you also need strength and the only way to get that strength is to practice, practice, get comments on your work, and then practice again.

I meet so many people who want to write, far fewer are the ones I meet who have what it actually takes to be a writer.

 

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

 

36 thoughts on “The Yoga of Being a Writer

  1. Saya tidak tau apa alasan anda mengatakan bahwa menulis adalah seni, karena menurut saya seni adalah seni dan menulis adalah buah fikiran dan yang saya tau keduanya adalah sama, mungkin anda bingung dengan apa yang saya tulis sekarang, saya mencoba menuliskan apa yang ada didalam fikiran saya, tentang bahwa apa yang anda ktakan benar dan saya senang menerima kiriman email dari anda, have a nice day.

  2. I agree writing is an art that cannot remain in the realm of conformity. One has to allow change in order to honor the gleam of inspiration that passes through one’s mind. I have heard one author say, “Do not tell me what you have written,tell me what you have read.” I started writing in my latter years of life, I diligently listen to dialogue to keep me from being imprisoned by conformity, I always look for ways to improve my writing so that one can taste the flavor of the coffee as he or she reads my writing; as opposed to just simply writing, i drank a cup of coffee.

  3. Great post! When I started writing, I did it as a hobby; needless to say, my first draft needed work, a lot of work!

    When I realized how much work ‘professional writing’ requires, it became clear that practice, perseverance and trial-and-error were essential. Since then, I think that proper writing us a full time job. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’ve been reflecting upon my unrealistic fantasy of becoming a ‘great’ writer, when actually I’m doing no more than sitting down randomly with no plan in mind, expecting myself to pound out something brilliant off the cuff. It’s silly.

    If I’m to really improve my craft, I have to put my heart AND mind into it: asking myself what I really want to say and then sorting out in my mind how best to craft it. I’m lazy about the writing process, I’ve come to admit to myself. I think this is a good step in the right direction.

  5. everything.. and that includes EVERYTHING requires PRACTICE, constant evolution to progress in the field, any art. Not just ‘one thing’ you have done, whether it is an essay in college, at a job, a painting in an art class or a finger painting in kindergarten that your mom told you that you are quite the artist. You may be, but it would still require a life long commitment to hold onto that craft and mold it. Techniques do change, just as we do. I have been told what a brilliant writer I am… yet deep down I have a HUGE problem believing I am a writer because I am not PUBLISHED formally… does that make me less of a writer than others? I have no idea. What makes a writer? the love, ability, devotion, skill… all of it together? I write everyday, I love to write, I have the ability and skill… I have a book of poetry about ready for publication, I am working on a memoir… does that make me an actual writer? some say yes, I don’t know… to me, at times yes… at times I doubt my own ability. But I do know it is a forever process…. like life. ongoing. so, like your metaphor… I continue to do my Yoga poses… each day… and I enjoy them 🙂

  6. I love this picture and also the idea of a writer’s version of yoga. Like yoga, my writing practice is for me as it’s about improving my skills. My body is just different from others in my yoga class and I am still learning to know when, how and why to push myself. My writing is the same. I could stay at a level where I’m comfortable or I can choose to grow. Clearly the person you met at the party isn’t comfortable with the messy process that happens with creative growth. For me, my blog is a way of testing my writing. Does it work? Am I aiming at the correct audience? Might the plot need to be trimmed back? Should I tweak the prose? Could my work do with more finessing? Often these aren’t easy questions to answer, but in a way, that’s the point. I’m not sure what kind of writer I am, but I am more than willing to keep experimenting. That is my practice.

  7. Great analogies! I love the stick in the sand idea as well as the yoga comparison. I consider myself a past newspaper writer, a present blogger, and a technical editor/writer, all very different roles that have thrust me into wild waves of writing — and learning. I don’t call myself a writer, but my life goal is to write something that will change the world. Maybe at that point, I will claim the title. 🙂 But writing takes work and dedication, makes me reflect and perfect, forces me to grow, and changes me, if not the world, at the very least. All good! Great post!

  8. Love your stick and yoga analogies. Writing – for a novice like me – is exponentially evolving, and I already understand it will always be so. Learning from other writers and the solitude of my writing practice feed my soul. Interaction with my readers is frosting.

  9. This made me laugh! I’ve come across many like the woman you spoke of. 🙂 The stick in the sand comparison is great. I’m not published but I do call myself a writer because I write and I love it. I’m also good at it. That, however, doesn’t mean there is nothing left for me to learn on the subject. Some get that and some don’t. When family and friends ask why I don’t get my writing published, I just smile. If only it were that easy. In the meantime… I’ll be on the beach, with my notebook and some wine, watching the waves roll in. 😉

  10. This is great! I have no background in writing and I’ve been telling myself I’m going to write a book, but it’s always “next year”… Last night I actually pulled up a new Word doc and started typing the first page so I’m on the “write” track 😛

  11. I have been a writer and journalist for 30+ years. After finally selling my newspaper and getting serious about writing (as opposed to the secondary jobs that went with the former territory and always kept me from doing what I loved most) I can testify that somebody is always moving that stick. I keep diving also, realizing there is no option except to be a lifelong learner. I can also testify that the business of writing is aimed at keeping us forever humble.
    Thank you for such a marvelous writing metaphor.

  12. I thought you were amazingly contained and polite during that encounter 😊 I love how you compared the craft of writing to yoga – the two go hand in hand for me, and are equally dear to my heart (and soul).

  13. That was a funny but sad story. I have been writing since I was about 8 or 7 years old but I only ever referred to myself as a writer after I was asked to perform one of my short stories at a Literary Gala Award event (and yes, I had actually won several awards before but for some reason still did not feel worthy – if that makes sense). Since that moment in time, I have had some of my work published, focused on writing regularly on my blog, read every chance I get, and am pressing ahead with the content for my first book. Writing is dog-gone hard work!!! Yet a true writer loves it and does it anyway. So thanks for this great post, and I salute all those who hang in there and do what needs to be done to be truly deep-down-in-the-heart writers – rock on!

  14. Wonderful post. Whenever I think I might finally figuring it out, I pull out something I wrote that I thought, at the time, was wonderful. I reread it and realize, nope. Still a long ways to go. I have also learned that when I am bored with something, or it’s not going right, or I keep putting off writing something I need to get done, it’s usually because I’m fighting the learning curve up ahead.

  15. Great post! I agree with you…writing is a craft it is an art. Writing is a very difficult process and people who think it to be easy are sadly mistaken. It needs great strength of mind and power of words to express oneself and awaken a response from one’s readers.
    Thanks for the post.

  16. One of my professors introduced me as a writer, and it felt good. No one had seen me that way. I had contributed some research and a story to his book about grandparents. I didn’t make any money from all the work, but I felt great that I was an author in a book used at our university. I begged a copy of the book and received one. I have currently self published three books, with three new ones in the works. You can read 15% of my last book free at http://www.smashwords.com. The book is called Strong Camino Woman. Keep writing. I’m proof that a little girl’s dreams of becoming a writer can come true.

  17. Pingback: Writing Links…10/13/14 | TraciKenworth's Blog

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