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Writing to stretch your mind

4 June, 2008

Here’s the writing lesson I drew from today’s experiences.

I went to my usual Wednesday Iyengar Yoga class, 7.00-8.30am. I’ve been going for a couple of years, so it’s a comfortable class—I know the routine, I like the regulars who attend, and I respect my teacher, Judy, who is a great model of dedicated yoga.

Today, Judy announced that we were going to go through a long and demanding set of poses described in Mr Iyengar’s book, Light on Yoga. We often stop in class to analyse a pose. No time for that today. For the next 90 minutes, we worked fast, zipping from one pose to another.

After getting over the shock of being in a ramped-up yoga session, I started enjoying it. As we flowed from one standing pose to the next, my body surrendered to this quicker rhythm.

No, it didn’t help me do all the poses better. But my body was well and truly awake and enjoying the challenge.

The lesson for writing? Later, I thought about how lazy I’ve become in that class, how much I’ve slid into a comfortable routine, taking the easy way out when the poses are difficult. I’ve built a comfortable box around myself, of what I think I can do and what I’ve told myself I can’t.

As writers, we sometimes construct a similar box around our views about our writing, confining ourselves about what we think we can and cannot write, what we think we’re good at and where we think we fail.

Maybe the lesson here is to find ways to look over the sides of our box once in awhile. Or even to jump out of the box occasionally and take a salutary walk on the wild side of our imagination. To explore ways to push ourselves in our writing, especially into areas we normally declare off limits, whatever is unfamiliar or uncomfortable in terms of ideas, techniques, emotions, styles, characters, writing genres, writing habits, and audiences.

A couple of hours after the yoga class, my muscles started protesting. But despite the twinges, I felt good for having stretched them beyond my usual limits. Can I find ways to stretch as much when I write?

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