Weekend Edition – On Inspiration and Practice

What Building a Desk and Practicing Yoga Have to Do with Writing

xmas deskThe 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:

cleese creativity

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 – Β trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

40 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – On Inspiration and Practice

    • Thank you, Raymond. I’m a lucky woman. πŸ˜‰
      And, I will not abandon my yoga. Setting up for a little practice this morning, in fact!
      Happy New Year!

    • Thank you so much. I love that you called my new desk a “place.” It is rather like that – creating its own space and wrapping me in a corner of creativity. Fabulous.

  1. Omg how’s your desk! Amazing. You must be very loved πŸ™‚
    With yoga, it’s definitely a case of losing it if you don’t use it. I have recently started using an online yoga studio with Melissa Billington https://myogafreedom.com
    It’s so good, and it starts from the basics. I am not a beginner, but i have found it very useful to start from the beginning again.
    I’m glad your Christmas was good – we call the day after Christmas Boxing Day in Australia as well – it’s probably an English thing if Canadians do it as well. What do Americans call it?

    • Most of the American women I know call the day after Christmas the finish line. πŸ˜‰ I wish we made it an official holiday like you do in Australia and the folks to the north do in Canada. It just seems right somehow.

      And – yes – my desk is amazing and I feel very loved and spoiled. My beau is nothing if not romantic, and he’s also so creative and clever. Knowing that this project gave him an outlet for his artistry makes me as happy for him as I am for me.

      Thank you for the link to Melissa Billington’s online yoga studio. I will definitely check that out. At one time, I had several years of consistent practice under my belt, but it’s been a long while since I’ve been committed to my practice. Perhaps Melissa will be just the person to nudge me back into a regular routine. πŸ™‚

      Hope you had a lovely holiday. Looking forward to catching up on everyone’s news and thoughts … as soon as I finish the book I’m reading. The couch is calling!

      • Oh yes, bliss! I did quite a bit of couch work after the finish line, which is what most Australian women call Boxing Day as well 😊 it’s also the day of big sales, not that I could think of anything I would less rather do the day after Christmas, than to go shopping with hordes of maddened bargain hunters. Happy reading Jamie, and a happy new year to you as well xo

    • Welcome, and thank you.
      Knowing that you write anonymously, I feel like you’re bringing a little mystery to our corner of the web. πŸ˜‰

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and found some insight there. Truth be told, sometimes I’m surprised at where my meandering leads me.

      Enjoy & I look forward to “seeing” you again soon.

  2. Absolutely punk-a-licious desk!!! I can’t wait to see what whimsies occur in your writing from the magic that beauty will inspire . Yoga – when I’m practicing it, I never want to stop but then I get distracted by the day’s interruptions and let it slide all too often. I do hope your daughter can instil some regularity in your practice!

    • Best adjective ever. πŸ˜‰
      I can’t wait to see what whimsies occur, either. This definitely feels like a desk that will draw out some surprising stories. All these old pieces of flotsam and jetsam coming back to life in the form of a beautiful, but functional work of art. Who knows? Perhaps my first story should be about the desk itself!

      I hope my daughter can nudge me back into a regular yoga practice as well. Something tells me she’ll be delighted to try.

      Thanks for coming by, Sammy. “See” you again soon!

    • I love it, too. I feel so spoiled, but in a good way. Can’t wait to get started on some stories now! Hope you had a lovely holiday. πŸ™‚

  3. Boxing Day is also observed in England. I grew up in Bermuda where it is also observed. It is not observed in the US where I live now. I wish it was. I feel like Christmas is cut short without that day!

  4. Amazing sure is the word to describe your desk! I can almost feel your ecstacy(I’d feel the same:D). You are so right about yoga. You can’t tell its magic until you stop doing it. You just motivated me to get back to it. Pronto!

    • I felt a little lame resorting to “amazing,” but – truly – the desk did make my jaw drop. πŸ˜‰

      Glad to have inspired you to get back to yoga. We need it, to be sure – all those hours at the keyboard … a body needs to stretch after that! Good luck with your practice. Enjoy!

  5. Funny – my man and I also busy building me a writing desk. Doubt it will be as ‘amazing’ as yours but it will definitely be a one-off.
    Packed in Pilates a few months back and, for all the same reasons you give, I shouldn’t have…

    • Ooh! Good luck with your desk. I would have no idea how to build any kind of furniture, but I’m grateful that my beau is as handy as he is. I’ll stick to building things with words. πŸ˜‰

      Pilates is also a wonderful practice. I used to mix yoga and Pilates. Maybe I’ll dig up my old Pilates books and take a peek for inspiration. TKS for the reminder!

      • Well, when I say we….
        Actually I design and measure (critical in the confines of a narrowboat) and John builds.

        I’ve since crocked my arm – some sort of RSI and very painful. Having physio just now and looking with interest at the recent video on this very subject posted here!!

      • A narrowboat? I’m intrigued.
        Also – so sorry about you having crocked your arm. That does not sound pleasant. I hope you find some relief soon!

  6. I was just perusing blogs on wordpress to procrastinate building the desk thats been on my to-do list forever and of course this is the first post I happen upon. Your desk is rad. I better get to mine now. And maybe I’ll squeeze some painful yoga in there too.

    • I hope you have fun building your desk. A writer needs a desk that suits his needs. After all, we spend a lot of time there.

      Here’s to beautiful desks and also to squeezing in yoga … even when it’s painful. πŸ˜‰ Good luck!

  7. I love your one-of-a-kind desk–and the labor of love that went into it. I don’t even want to think of starting over with yoga, but if we don’t use it, we lose it. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in this. πŸ™‚

    • I love my new desk, too, and – as you put it – the labor of love behind the finished product. I really enjoyed hearing the back story behind the creation of the desk. My honey could hardly wait to tell me all about the adventure – finding all the pieces, how they came together, the trial and error. It’s a story in itself!

      I’m definitely feeling a bit apprehensive about getting back to my yoga, especially given the painful experience of the other day. But you’re so right – if we don’t use it, we lose it. And, I don’t want to lose it. πŸ˜‰

  8. Jamie, wonderful post. My husband and I are just short of two months away from our second anniversary and I especially relate to “surprise” plans, and to feeling enormously grateful for things I never thought I’d have, like warm hugs, feeling loved, sharing things I’ve never before shared. Loving someone else and worrying about him instead of myself. Having my writing time interrupted because he wants to tell me something inconsequential that he found funny or frustrating. And having him bring me things from the store just because he knows I like them. So many others. I’m 70 years old, so the habits of a lifetime of solitary living are not easy to give up and we’ve had some adjustments to make, but the trade-offs are so worth it! Now, instead of creating stories by myself, we create stories together! Love all your posts, your FB page and your website.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your lovely story, Pat. You’ve touched on something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and which will, I’m sure, turn up in a future post – this idea that writers must be so dedicated to their craft and their work to the exclusion of all else (or, at least most everything else). I think we have a reflexive urge to defend our writing time against all intrusions, even when those “intrusions” are, in fact, the things that make life worth living. I am so happy for you that you’ve found not only your husband (who sounds like a lovely and loving person), but also a way to weave all the parts of your life together into a (mostly) πŸ˜‰ harmonious tapestry.

      Thanks again for being here and sharing. So nice to know you.

  9. You are bound to be inspired not – that desk is a piece of art – and all the past energies stored there. It’s a bit organic and a bit like a stray kitten. Just lovely.
    Yoga. used to do it, but lapsed. My daughter also does yoga and pilates and some recent attempts to start doing poses again is a cross between humorous and realizing modifications are going to have to be made where as before it was so easy.
    delightful post. Hope your “In-Between Holidays Week” is both restful and fun ( and those do too go together!)

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