What Building a Desk and Practicing Yoga Have to Do with Writing
The day after Christmas has always been my favorite day of the holiday season. They call this blissful twenty-four hours Boxing Day in Canada. It is so named, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, because of the holiday’s origins in the tradition of wealthy homeowners presenting their domestic help with gift boxes on the day after Christmas.
For me, Boxing Day is usually a hard-earned moment of rest after many long weeks of incessant chaos. True, the house is usually in a state of utter (if festive) disarray, but I’ve always been able to divert my attention from that distraction by sticking my nose in a book. That was my plan for this year as well. I had intended to follow the game plan laid out by my friend and fellow writer Tracy Mayor who tweeted that she was going to park herself on the couch with a book and a sign that read, “Do not disturb. There are leftovers in the fridge.” However, the fates of Christmas just-passed had other things in mind for me.
After a delicious repast of leftover scones with tea, we (I, my beau, and my daughter) spent almost two hours assembling the amazing (I know it’s an overused adjective, but truly there is no more apt word to use in this case) writing desk that my beau designed and built for me as a Christmas gift. The picture attached here does it no justice at all. It is an entirely unique and whimsical assemblage that is part old barn, part industrial chic, part antique treasure trove, and part steampunk. Because of its impressive weight and size, it had to be moved inside in pieces and then reassembled. The process was slow and made me appreciate even more the amount of time and effort that went into the making of this functional work of art.
Since each element in the desk is a one-of-a-kind find from an antique store or other such source, there’s barely a right angle or a straight edge to be seen. Fitting all these pieces together required a great deal of patience and ingenuity. This wasn’t a simple, insert-tab-A-into-slot-B kind of operation. This was an inspired act of creation that involved on-the-spot tool fabrication and out-of-the-box thinking to solve each problem that arose. But, as you can hopefully see from the picture, we were ultimately successful and the effort was so worth the outcome. This is a desk beyond my wildest dreams.
Shortly after our triumph with the desk, my beau left for a bit, leaving my almost-eleven-year-old daughter and I to our own devices. She decided that we would do some yoga, something I haven’t practiced in more than six months. My daughter, on the other hand, practices a wide array of yoga- and pilates-inspired stretches three times a week during warm-ups at her various dance classes. You can guess the outcome of combining our mis-matched skill levels.
We were only a few poses into the “class” my daughter was teaching when we found ourselves nearly in tears from laughing so hard. While she moved with strength and grace from one pose to the next, I teetered and groaned. Poses and stretches that I had once found easy seemed suddenly impossible. When did I stop being able to fold my head to my knees? Since when did twisting my body into an opening stretch cause me to wince? My daughter found my inability to keep up quite amusing. I laughed right alongside her, but I couldn’t help noticing (with a certain level of regret) how much ground I’d lost. I hadn’t realized how much strength and flexibility I had built up through my modest, at home yoga practice. And now, having let that practice go, I found myself stiff, weak, and in quite a bit of discomfort.
At the end of our class, my daughter settled me into a restful savasana pose with a blanket. As my aching body sank gratefully into the floor, my mind replayed the events of the morning – the loss of my planned relaxation, the off-the-cuff assembly of the desk, and the enjoyable (if slightly painful) yoga class. Though nothing had gone as planned and our activities had revealed a weakness I didn’t know I had, I had to smile. Mostly, I just felt grateful. I felt grateful that I was able to spend this time with the ones I love, grateful for my beautiful new desk, and grateful for the opportunity to practice accepting unforeseen and uncontrollable changes in my plans.
I also felt grateful that the morning had illuminated the value of both diving in and figuring things out as you go along and also engaging in regular practice to build strength and skill over time. The creation and assembly of my beautiful desk was a perfect example of the magic that can happen when you give yourself over to the muse and commit to following her lead, even when you don’t know exactly how things are going to work out. My daughter’s yoga class, on the other hand, was a gentle but effective reminder of how establishing and maintaining a regular practice keeps you limber and builds your strength and ability.
Both these approaches – developing a practice and following your inspiration – are critical to your writing. Neither is enough on its own. You must combine them, tapping into their different strengths as each creative endeavor requires. It’s a bit of a push and pull between intentional control and wild abandon, the respect for the craft and the surrender to the muse. It can sound a bit confusing and even a little daunting, but I’m finally beginning to understand how much fun this dance between the two halves of writing can be.
Because of the holidays this week, today’s weekend edition is abbreviated and does not include my usual What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing, or blog post picks from the week. I would, however, like to share this quote:
Here’s to finding your dynamic point of balance between practice and winging it. Happy creating!
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally – trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.