Yoga and Creativity (Part 2)

I couldn’t bend. Physically and mentally. I was sitting with my legs spread wide, then I was supposed to bend forward, forearms on the mat. Deep breath and bend. And… nothing. My body couldn’t do what I was prompted to do. All I could do is sit with my palms pressing into the floor, my head bent… because I could at least bend there.

This pose that I simply couldn’t do usually wouldn’t be a big deal any other day, but today it seemed like a bad omen.

I know my body’s limitations. I know that I need to bend my legs to get into a sitting forward fold, I don’t have the core strength to do crow pose, I’ve just started being able to do upward facing dog. That’s fine. 99% of the time. Today, my headspace was not a place of rainbows and unicorns, so this limitation was met with plenty of self-doubt and frustration.

This has happened before in my writing. Something just wouldn’t bend in my brain the way it needed to, in order to get onto the page in some remotely successful way. The words weren’t right, the feeling wasn’t there, the dialogue was unnatural. I knew what I needed to do, I could picture it in my head. But, when it came down to it, it didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes words don’t come out the way they need to; sometimes that yoga pose doesn’t look the way it’s “supposed” to. But, that’s life. Life is frustrating, it doesn’t bend, it’s a little awkward and messy.

My favourite yogi, Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene, has a great saying that can be applied to life as much as yoga: Find what feels good.

Basically, it means that the shape of the pose doesn’t matter as much as how it feels. If your one-legged pigeon is a little wonky, that’s fine as long as you’re not hurting yourself and it feels good. If you look at it from a wider perspective, it can easily apply to most things in life. My process of writing isn’t going to be the same as yours. What you need to do to get your story out isn’t what I need to do. If it isn’t what the “professionals” are doing, that’s just fine, as long as it feels good for you.

The thing is not to let your feelings of self-doubt be in control, as it seems they inevitably will be when you compare yourself to someone else. That’s what I needed to take away today, after some self-reflection and mindfulness. Maybe there will come a time that I stop comparing myself to those I admire, but today is not that day.

Cheers!

Yoga and Creativity

I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about 6 or 7 years. My entry into the yoga world was actually through something called “Hoop Yoga” (Yoga with hula hoops! How fun is that?) in my first years at university.

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I will be the first to admit I have a complicated relationship with exercise. Growing up, I wasn’t completely uncoordinated, but I wasn’t great either. Organized sports sucked for me because I’m not a runner… I don’t like running. So after gym class was no longer required for me, I turned into a bit of a mushroom.

Going to university, I had free access to a wide variety of classes, so I was able (with the encouragement of much more active friends) to find alternatives to the exercises that I wasn’t crazy about. Hoop Yoga was a highlight for me, because it wasn’t an intense workout but I still felt like I was challenging myself. I had the flexibility of a wooden board, but I enjoyed myself.

It wasn’t until after I graduated and moved home when I realized I needed to do something to keep my body moving. No more mushroom! I dabbled in at-home Pilates (with Blogilates on Youtube) before transitioning more towards yoga. I found Yoga with Adriene on Youtube and it was like finding a cozy yoga nook!

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My yoga routine isn’t as consistent as I’d like, but any time on my mat is a treat. It has been a wild wonderful journey. It took a little time to accept that I would never have a typical itty-bitty, flexible “yoga body,” now I see that any body doing yoga is a yoga body.

While yoga has helped me touch my toes and connect with my body (aka stop seeing it as a meat sack I’m dragging around), it’s also helped me get into a better mental space. It’s one of the only moments where my mind will actually be quiet and I’ll be fully in the moment. A complete miracle moment.

Having those moments allows the clutter in my brain to clear and make room for more productive and creative things.

I find that when I don’t have much time to do yoga for a period of time, I also lose momentum in my writing. It’s as if yoga helps fuel my creative motivation.

The connection that I’ve formed with my body and my mind, and the process of checking in with myself, has improved my self-image and confidence in my abilities on the mat and off the mat. The clarity and confidence allows me to move through my creative project more sure of myself.

What’s great about doing an at-home practise is the pressure is off. As someone who constantly compares herself to others, doing yoga by myself has allowed me to use only myself as competition. It’s allowed me to grow in my practise more freely and at my own speed–which is a big plus for me in doing any sort of exercise.

My yoga practise is about showing up for myself, feeling good about myself physically and mentally, and finding peace in order to move forward in a positive mental place.

P.S. If you’ve ever thought about doing yoga at all, I’d recommend checking out Yoga with Adriene, she’s got a great selection of beginner yoga videos.

Festive Fun

When in doubt, make it one line. 

If you know me personally (maybe even if you don’t), you know I get excited about Christmas as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Halloween. Then it’s yuletide festivities galore! I listen to Christmas music, I pull out a few Christmas decorations, I dream of a white Christmas, etc. etc. 

Not one of those people? Feel free to read something else, because this is going to be Christmas AF. 

This time of year, I also watch an embarrassing amount of Hallmark Christmas movies. So many. They are so much fun; perfectly predictable, fancifully festive, … [insert one more cute alliteration here]. 

One that came out this year was called Christmas at Pemberley Manor. If “Pemberley” sounds familiar, it’s because it is the name of the estate owned by Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. The movie had almost nothing to do with Jane Austen, except the character names and who ended up with whom. 

Though the movie left something to be desired (though it was full of Christmas cuteness), it inspired me to write a P&P based Christmas story.

As it goes often with my writing, I wrote the first line and blanked. After a few days of noodling on the first line, I realized it would be fun to turn a number of classic first lines into the beginnings of Christmas stories. Here they are! See if you can guess where they’re from.

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Bennett family must go to the Crystal Lake Lodge at Christmas time.  
  • It was a bright cold day in December, and the bells were chiming twelve.
  • Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the Blue Spruce trees for the Christmas ball herself.
  • For a long time, I went to bed early, especially on Christmas Eve. 
  • In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me a Christmas gift that I’ve been pondering over ever since. 
  • It was a queer, quiet Christmas, the Christmas they orbited the moon, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
  • In the late December of that year we lived in a stone cottage in a village that looked across the frozen river and the snowy plain to the mountains. 

See? So festive. I’d also like to apologize to all the classic novels whose first lines I just butchered.

If you have any classic first lines turned Christmas-y I’d love to read them!

Magic in the Air: A Seasonal Shift

I don’t know about you, but this time of year is my absolute favourite. It starts at the end of August and goes until the end of October. The magic in the air is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. It’s no wonder the celts and ancient pagans thought this was the time when the barrier between the spirit world and the living was thin.

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Every October I get the urge to write something magical. Last year I started a novel about wizards going to UofT and fighting a magic eating monster (Harry Potter for 20-somethings). In the past, I’ve also written stories about zombies and other spooky subject matter.

I doubt these urges will ever go away. This year, the story is an elderly witch who has to fight off an evil spirit who’s bringing back the dead.

It does make it hard to concentrate on the novel I’m supposed to be finishing in order to maybe publish it someday. Ahh well. Plenty of time for that in the sad, brown, cold, dreary days of November.

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I like to explore magic not only in writing but also visually, through photography and painting. A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation up to Algonquin Park. While the fall colours weren’t at peak (thank goodness because there would’ve been so many tourists), there was still enough autumnal magic to fill my heart.

There were plenty of subjects to photograph and I even did a little drawing of a mushroom.

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There were so many mushrooms everywhere, each time we went on a hike. I LOVE mushrooms. They’re so interesting and fun.

I was also able to do some stargazing, which is one of my favourite things to do up north. I love being able to see the milky way, something about it makes me feel so small. Though most of the nights were cloudy and the moon was getting quite full, so stargazing wasn’t really possible. BUT I was able to take a picture of some stars and after a teeny tiny bit of editing, I think it turned out pretty good (for my first try).

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Fun fact: We were up there during the equinox and we danced around a bonfire… okay, we huddled around a very sad little fire.

Anyway, this blog post started off so eloquent and on-topic. But let’s not kid ourselves, this was just a way for me to show off my awesome pictures. I hope you enjoyed them!

Have a wonderfully magical autumn!🍂

Quick Tip: Read Your Writing Out Loud!

If, like me, you are a writer and are editing a piece of writing… please, PLEASE, do yourself (everyone, really) a favour and read your damn writing out loud.

This read-through will pinpoint any grammar errors that can be self-corrected by the brain. It smooths out the sound of your writing and helps you find the best words. And the best words are simply the best. Go for the best words!

If you’re unable to read aloud yourself, find someone you trust and respect to help out.

I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Escapism

I try to maintain a healthy dose of daydreaming to remain sane.

– Florence Welch

I am an escape artist.

Not in the traditional, Harry Houdini sort of way. I cannot escape from a straightjacket while being held upside down in a tank of water. But I do escape. My straightjacket is reality.

Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

My reality has never been overly unpleasant but it is just a regular plain-old life. I used to go to school, do homework, sleep, eat. Now I go to work, write my book, sleep, eat. The repetitiveness is a bit much for me sometimes.

I don’t remember the exact moment when I discovered Harry Potter (maybe in the first grade?), but since I read the first book, I wanted to run away to Hogwarts and be a witch. The world of Harry Potter was my first conscious dip into the world of escape-through-fiction. My own world was suddenly a bit more ordinary because there was no magic.

Since then there have been many books that have acted as a portal out of my reality; included but not limited to Twilight, anything by Maggie StiefvaterThe Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, and Anne of Green Gables. These books help(ed) me have faith that there is more to the world than meets the eye.

Reading is my escape.

Escapism isn’t always about books. I’ve been an avid daydreamer since… ever. The Oxford English Dictionary (online) defines a daydream as, “A series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.”

From ballerinas to lost princesses, to orphans (thanks Anne Shirley and Annie), to lottery winners, my inner world is full of interesting characters and adventures. As a child, I could play make-believe forever. As an adult, my daydreams often revolve around being an author, paid enough to quit my job, able to buy a quaint cottage by the sea to live in with my cats.

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So cute!

In high school, my internal worlds started becoming external through my writing. It’s no longer me going on adventures but the characters I create. Worlds I didn’t know were rattling around in my head started coming out onto the page. It’s been fun to explore worlds someone else didn’t already create.

Writing is now my escape.

Between reading and writing, the monotony of life doesn’t feel so… monotonous.

 

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On Dog Walking and Creativity

For over two years as I’ve been working on my novel, I’ve also been working as a dog walker. My hours vary depending on how many doggies need walking or cats need caring. Sometimes after a busy day, I just want to fall on the floor and never get up again. But, in general, I think this physical job has helped my writing more than hinder it.

 

Get Out and Get Going

 

Physical activity that doesn’t require critical thinking is a known way to combat writer’s block.

 

Writing is all about what’s going on in your head, very cerebral. Getting out and walking for hours a day means I can turn off the part of my brain that does all the writing. This allows the creative juices to work in the background and solve the plot issues I was having troubles with, or think of new scenes and characters.

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Physical activity that doesn’t require critical thinking is a known way to combat writer’s block. While writer’s block hasn’t been a major problem for me recently (knock on wood), being able to put writing on the backburner means I’m not getting creatively drained.

 

Interesting People and Places

 

The people we pass and sometimes talk to, add to my internal catalog of character traits.

 

My job involves spending lots of time with many different types of dogs with lots of personalities. I’ve dabbled with an idea about a dog-walker having to save a dog that secretly belonged to a secret service agent.

But mostly, it’s the places we walk and the people we meet along the way that offer the inspiration.

While out with my fur friends, I’ve discovered many a favourite tree and plenty of inspiring scenery. The people we pass and sometimes talk to, add to my internal catalog of character traits; whether appearance, mannerisms, or personality based.

People are endlessly interesting.

 

Nature and the Creative Soul

 

Being in a happy place is great for motivation. Motivation is great for writing.

 

In my last post, I wrote about the healing power of nature. Especially when it gets warm (for like two months in Canada), I find the green trees and the bright sun fill my soul with bliss. Even though I find winter a little soul-crushing after December, I can still find the beauty.

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Even without the direct inspiration, nature is what keeps my state-of-being in a happy place. Being in a happy place is great for motivation. Motivation is great for writing.

I will always find joy in nature and my job allows me to be out in it a lot. Sometimes I do end up a sweaty, dog-hair covered mess, but there’s always an underlying joy that allows me to keep writing.