Writing Lessons From My Yoga Mat #2: Progress Comes Slowly. And Then All At Once.

This is the second in an occasional, ongoing series, wherein I look to my developing yoga practice for lessons that can help me grow as a writer.


The first time a yoga teacher instructs you to get into downward-facing dog, it’s awkward. The basic idea is that you’re supposed to make an upside down ‘V’ with your body—hands and feet on the floor, butt in the air. Arms and torso making one straight line all the way from your hands to your hips. Legs straight, too.

yoga pose - downward facing dog

At first, your heels are nowhere close to touching the floor. After about thirty seconds, your shoulders burn. It sucks.

Then you find out it’s supposed to be a resting pose, and you almost fall, you want to laugh so hard. Is rest really supposed to hurt this much?

I’m not even going to lie. Mastering downward-facing dog was a process for me. I spent three or four years slowly getting better and better at it. My shoulder muscles developed to the point where it became easier to hold the pose for longer periods of time, and my flexibility grew, too. Still, the progress was almost imperceptible. Sure, it became less difficult. Sure, my form became better. But there was no way to measure how far I’d come.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere one day, my heels touched the ground.

This may not sound like much to you, but it’s kind of one of the holy grails for the beginning yoga student. (Seriously—have you seen the angle your ankles need to make to have this happen???) But after years of trying–after slow, slow, painfully slow progress, shockingly, I was there.

In writing, the first time you say you want to get published, someone might laugh at you. It’s a crazy, impossible idea. You have to write a book, and edit a book, and put together a query and a synopsis and then actually send those queries to real live people who will judge your work. You have to get requests and then have an agent offer to sign you and then manage to luck out and have that agent actually sell that book.

Chances are, your first manuscript won’t make the cut. You’ll do it all again. And again. And again.

It’s a process. You spend years at it. All the work—the blood, sweat and tears, and the hours away from your family and trying to sneak in writing time when you’re supposed to be working at your paying job—it doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere. Sure, you’re becoming a better writer. Sure, you’re learning the industry and perfecting your pitch. But there’s no way to measure how far you’ve come.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere one day, you get the call.

Perhaps I’m rambling, but I’m guessing you’ve grasped the parallel I’m drawing by now. In yoga and in writing and in so many other endeavors, the work we put in is hard to measure. It’s grueling and unrewarding and frustrating. But if you put in the time and the effort, it adds up. You may not be able to see the progress, but it’s happening.

So keep trying. Keep working and stretching and reaching. Because, remember: Progress comes slowly.

And then all at once…you’re there.

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