This winter I gave myself 60 days to write a novel. It was the second of three books that I owe Berkley/Penguin. The due date was 4/1 and I waited until 2/1 to start the 85,000 word novel.
But I had a really strong outline, and I knew I could do it.
There was one major problem. The heroine of this novel was a yoga instructor, and my knowledge of yoga was poor to nonexistent. I knew I needed to do some research, so I bookmarked a few YouTube videos. But a live experience is always better. And, hey, the middle of me is squishier than I wish it was. So I signed up for one of those gotcha! deals that all health clubs have right after New Year's: $30 for 30 days. I paid for it with my business credit card because it's research, right?
Then I stared at the schedule and tried to pick a class. And I'm ashamed to say that I was terrified. I live in a college town and I knew the room would be full of 20-year-olds. (This fear proved correct.) And I don't get yoga. They quite literally speak a different language. I was going to be that student, the one who was two beats behind on everything.
Stepping into that room felt so revealing, as if every wobble in a pose would expose my messy existence. Just from my stance it would be obvious that I can't quite seem to finish a load of laundry or think up something fun for dinner.
But my deadline beckoned, and my character was a little flat on the page. And thus my fear of failing at authorship trumped my fear of failing at yoga. I dusted off the yoga mat in the closet and showed up for a session of Mighty Yoga (their words.) It was in a heated studio no less, as if to make it more like a circle of hell.
And I was that student who was two beats behind. I couldn't find cat or cow without watching the others. I couldn't find cobra. Maybe I would have found chair pose if the instructor hadn't called it Utkatasana.
I was never finding pigeon without help. And, hey teacher? I never saw a pigeon do that.
And then the strangest thing happened. I started smiling during the sweatiest, toughest moment of class. Why?
Because IT'S REALLY FREAKING FUN TO STINK AT THINGS!
All week I duke it out in a competitive industry where I try to produce the best of the best. Every word I write will be judged by others. Every business decision will either pay off or flop. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to do something badly. I used to do pottery at the 92nd Street Y in New York city. I was a horrible potter but that wasn't the point. It was just fun.
When did I forget that?
I turned in the book two months ago. (It turned out great, too!) But I'm still going to yoga. I buy classes five at a time now, and not on my business credit card. My yoga has gotten less spastic but I don't give achievement much thought. I'm still in that room because I don't really get yoga. I'm not good at mindfulness. My head is always composing a novel even when you're speaking to me. (Sorry!) I do yoga because I'm a terrible yogi, and it reminds me, if only for 90 minutes, that there are other ways to move through the world.
The teacher often reminds the class: "Take a moment to observe yourself--not from a place of judgement but from a place of curiosity." I should have that tattooed on my belly upside down, so I can read it while I'm slaving away on a novel.
Meanwhile, the laundry piles up but there are yoga clothes in it now.