Writing Lessons From My Yoga Mat #1: Criticism Makes You Better

After a couple years of delinquency, I’ve recently returned to a regular yoga practice. I enjoy the physical challenges it presents, as well as the chance to be quiet and let my mind drift. Shockingly, it tends to drift toward writing, and recently it’s started to drift toward the lessons I learn in my yoga practice that are applicable to my writing.

And thus this new series, Writing Lessons From My Yoga Mat, was born

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Lesson #1: Criticism Makes You Better

Back when I was a kid, I was a goody-two-shoes and a nerd. I wanted to please everyone, especially teachers. When my teacher walked around the classroom, I was all business, demonstrating to the best of my ability how well I was doing, how great I was at this, how I did not need help, oh no, not me.

The instinct to eschew help and to shy away from criticism never really left me, not in yoga and not in writing. And it’s poisonous. Stagnating. Pointless.

In yoga, a good instructor walks around the class, and she performs corrections, sure. She lets you know your alignment is a little bit off or reminds you to angle yourself like so. But she also does assists.

In an assist, she comes along and gently pushes or pulls to help you achieve a deeper version of the pose. It’s not because you were doing anything wrong. It’s because it is physically impossible to get into certain positions without someone there to help you stretch that tiny bit farther, reach that extra inch more.

And that’s how it is with a good critique partner, too.

Sure, sometimes your CP tells you about something you’re doing wrong, and thank goodness, because no one wants to submit a manuscript that demonstrates a complete inability to tell the difference between lay and lie and laid. But more often than not, your CP is providing an assist. She’s pointing out the places where your story could go a little deeper and suggesting ways it could reach an extra inch farther into your readers’ chest cavities. She’s helping you get to the places it would be impossible to achieve without another person there, looking at your work from the outside and figuring out what it needs.

In yoga and in writing, it takes serious effort for me to relax and accept the input from my teachers and critique partners. I put that effort in, though. I try to be the person who can take the corrections and the assistance with gratitude and grace. I have to be, if I ever want to get better.

And so, to the best of my ability, I do.

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