As some of you may already know from my post on social media, this Sunday I started a 40 Day Yoga Challenge through my local studio. Most of the folks who signed up are committing to an hour a day at the studio, but since I’ll be traveling during some of the time, I’ll be doing an hour a day wherever I am for the entire 40 days. This should be interesting at the Coastal Magic Conference in Florida… perhaps I can find a way to practice on the beach if it’s not too cold.
I’m currently on the fourth official day of the challenge, but since I went to the studio for Saturday as well, I’ve already done four days of yoga in a row. I’m sore, oddly enough especially in my foot muscles, but I’m happy and I seem to have more energy. I’ve also been forceably humbled; I thought I was getting pretty good at this yoga thing until I walked into the Dynamic class and saw people contorted and doing headstands for fun. I’m drenched in sweat, muscles shaking, and they’re looking angelic in poses three steps harder. This is when the instructor tells you to close your eyes and breathe. So I breathe, try to forget about them, and do my best not to fall over. Of course, I do anyway, but I get back up.
Writing is like this for me sometimes. There are times when I’m feeling on top of the world and things come easily, and there are times (like lately) where I struggle for every word. But what this challenge is about for me is showing up. Learning to lean into the discomfort and uncertainty and be okay with not having all the answers. Learning to have faith in the process and in myself, that the project will come together as it should and that if I keep showing up, and keep working, I’ll get stronger. I’ll get this done.
I went to the Atlanta Arts Movement dinner on Monday, which is always incredibly inspiring (more about this in a future post). I got to talk to artists and musicians in a variety of mediums, and it struck me all over again that real artists embrace the struggle. Even Suzy Schultz, one of the most accomplished full-time painters I’ve ever met, rarely knows where the canvas will take her when she sits down to paint. That faith, that adventure into the unknown is something that all the artists and musicians talked about. And it’s something I don’t think we allow ourselves to feel in the writing world as much as we should.
This last year I’ve read so many articles on being a better businessperson, on handling your marketing and promotion better, on systems and methods to improve your writing and to be more efficient. Rachel Aaron even talks about scientific data gathering in her famous 2k to 10k post/book. And there’s a part of me, the part that used to hang out with engineers, who thinks if I pull the right levers and do the right process, I can learn to be a near-literal writing machine.
But great art is about that uncertainty. Great art is about the magic coming together, about the unexpected you find along the way. Great art takes discomfort and uncertainty and the stretching of new muscles. Great art also takes time, time seated at the canvas or the keyboard, time sitting with that uncertainty.
So, this 40 days, when I commit to yoga every day, I also commit to letting go of my levers and gears. I commit to spending time at the keyboard, to reconnecting with my muse, to looking for the great art that’s buried within me. Ultimately, this will mean that I must, like in yoga class, stand with muscles shaking, breathing through the uncertainty and discomfort. I will stand with respect for myself and the non-linear process that is my writing.
I expect interesting things to happen this 40 days. I’ll let you know how it goes.