Monthly Archives: November 2012

Endorphins and Creativity

There was a study conducted by multiple British universities in 1997 that established that both mood and creativity are enhanced by physical activity. A quick review of what endorphins are responsible for would seem to support this. I’m not a doctor or scientist, admittedly, but I am a creative person as well as a person who is occasionally prone to feeling blocked in my creativity. I spoke about the benefits of yoga on one’s writing (and vice versa) recently, but much of yoga’s benefit is meditation-based. If you also want to release feel-good hormones and get your creative juices flowing, just thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise is the way to go.

As we hit the midpoint of NaNoWriMo, you may be racking your brain for ideas. Why not take a stroll around the block and do a few sun salutations? It can’t hurt, and more likely than not, it’ll actually help.

 

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Five Things Yoga Has Taught Me About Writing

This is a series I wrote about a year ago when I was blogging exclusively on a different platform. I’m migrating it over here, as I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how exercise and meditation can help one’s creativity and thought it could be helpful. Since I first wrote this, I’ve made a lot more progress on publications and novel writing, yet I’ve somehow gone backward with my yoga practice. This is a reminder for myself as much as for any readers out there that a balance between the intellectual and the physical is incredibly important if you want to grow, change, and deepen as a complete person. Yoga is not the only path toward this integration of body, mind, and spirit, however, and in the coming weeks I’ll be writing more here about other ways to reduce stress and enhance creativity through exercise.

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I’ve been a practicing yogini since the mid-1990s, even before I knew I wanted to be a professional fiction writer. Back then, I mostly worked with videos (and yes, I mean actual VHS tapes!), but I did take the occasional short-term class in a variety of styles. My favorite styles usually focused almost entirely on flexibility and didn’t deal much with either the other physical benefits (aerobic and strength) or the philosophical, spiritual, or psychological advantages of a regular yoga practice. It’s only been in the last few years—as both my yoga and my writing has become more serious—that I’ve begun to see the ways in which each supplement and help the other…and about life in general.

The current state of both my yoga practice and my writing could be described as semi-professional. I’m now at a stage with yoga where I’m deeply immersed in working with several teachers of different styles (all of whom I love), and I’m researching teacher training options so that I can eventually teach yoga part-time. With my writing, I’m also feeling very semi-professional. I have lots of short pieces published but nothing full-length, though I have several novels almost completed. I see my yoga teacher training possibly coming through at the same time I sell my first novel, as these two creative outlets in my life seem to keep flowing together so beautifully.

1. Be willing to hurt. Yoga poses are strenuous. Sometimes the asanas are uncomfortable when we’re not familiar with them. But they end, even the hard ones. When you’re struggling with getting something published, you feel desperate, anxious, and alone. When doing a tough pose or waiting for an answer on a story I’ve sent off to a market, I always remind myself that the tough part will be over soon, and I will be stronger for it. The difficult asana taught me something about my body’s mechanics. When a story is having a tough time selling, I revise with each rejection and make a better story in the end. In both cases, I have learned through the pain.

2. Be mindful of your breath. Breathing is the ultimate relaxation tool. When writing, taking a breath (physical/literal or metaphorical) can refresh you. There is a reason pranayama works: it forces you to bring your mind back to the present moment and set aside other concerns. Sometimes it’s just a lack of focus that is causing writers block.

3. Be flexible. An editor tells you to cut something, you cut it. Your yoga teacher tells you to try upward-facing dog, that he thinks you’re ready for it, you try it.

4. Be here now, wherever that is. The current piece is the most important one. The current pose is the only one that matters. When you write in one genre and feel you’ve mastered its conventions, it doesn’t mean you’ve mastered the conventions of all genres. Doing a beautiful Warrior I pose with perfect alignment does not mean you’re a master of the full lotus. Your abilities and talents are individual based on what you’re doing. This teaches you to have goals, and also to exhibit humility. We do not learn all of the yoga; we continue to practice it as students, even if we teach it. So, too, a writer is always practicing her craft, never fully perfecting it, and even when teaching it is simply working on it with students. In both cases, sometimes the student teaches the teacher, which beautifully illustrates some of the tenets of karma yoga.

5. Be the strong creature you already are. As in tree pose, you must bend and sway without falling, but even falling involves simply readjusting yourself. Writers must weather the winds of rejections and reviews and dry spells and writers block, but it in no way diminishes you as an artist or yoga student.

Ultimately, the most important thing about both yoga and writing is to do each every day to keep the body and mind limber. Namaste.

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NaNoWriMo advice in one handy spot!

Since we’re now in the thick of NaNoWriMo (and thanks to a helpful tipster who reported that my advice posts are being picked up by bloggers, tweeters, and authors), I thought I would link to each part of my ten-part NaNoWriMo advice series in one handy spot.

Part One: Introduction

Part Two: Brainstorm your protagonist before the beginning of November

Part Three: Write what you know

Part Four: Keep the word count in mind

Part Five: Catch up on the weekends

Part Six: Get some cheerleaders

Part Seven: Freewrite in a different genre; engage in ritual behavior and reward systems

Part Eight: Reread and flesh out

Part Nine: Visualize your scene

Part Ten: You’ve got a lot of editing to do!

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