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Apr 29

Writing Lessons From My Yoga Mat, Pt. 3: Strengths and Weaknesses

yogawriterOne of the things I love most about yoga is that it challenges every part of you. You need flexibility to get into poses, and strength to be able to hold them. You need balance. Patience. Mindfulness. Whatever you walk into that studio with, you will use.

Whatever you don’t have, you’ll gain.

It’s a lesson in humility for everyone.

For example, I was able to touch my toes before I tried my first pose. But within three seconds of holding downward-facing dog, my shoulder muscles were screaming. My more athletic friend had all the musculature he could want, but he was hamstrung by his, well, tight hamstrings.

Essentially, my observation has been that everyone has something they’re good at in yoga, and everyone has something they need to work to improve. You figure out your strengths. You focus on your weaknesses. And you know that your individual strengths and weaknesses are unique to your own body and your own mind. No one else will approach a pose exactly the same way you do.

But in the end, you’re all trying to get to the same place.

In writing, I’ve found the same principle to be true. Becoming a successful writer requires a command of language and story structure, untold imagination, a distinctive voice, discipline, and a host of other skills.

Personally, I think I came to the profession with a good sense of my own voice and a pretty decent grasp of English language mechanics. I had a long way to go with plotting and discipline, so over the years, those have been the things I’ve focused on.

I look for advice in online articles and blogs like this one. I read books. I seek out the input of my critique partners, who tend to have complimentary skill sets. I try to keep a healthy perspective on it all.

Sometimes, it’s tempting to look at someone else’s writing / career and envy the things that make them great. To the best of my ability, I try to keep in mind that they’ve most likely had their own trials and tribulations, and their own problem spots they’ve had to work on. Chances are, they’ve only gotten where they are because they’ve put a lot of energy into overcoming their particular weaknesses.

We all bring what we have to the table. We work together to try and gain the things we don’t.

Hopefully, eventually, we all end up at the same place.

 

13 comments

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  1. Sydney

    Great post! I feel that my weaknesses are right in line with plotting and discipline, too. Both are ongoing battles…I mean, journeys :)

    1. Jeanette Grey

      Battles and journeys look a lot alike in this profession. No journey ends without a few scars :) Keep fighting!

  2. Brighton Walsh

    I love this post! You’re so right–it’s easy to get caught up in the s/he did more/better/whatever, but we have to remember they have struggles, too. Also, “a pretty decent grasp of English language mechanics.” That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. ;)

    1. Jeanette Grey

      Thank you, critique partner of my heart.

  3. Jenna P

    Great post! We all suffer from writer envy at some point. It’s natural. But reminding yourself that the circumstances behind someone else’s success are most likely different can help overcome that. Whether they’ve been working at it longer, sharpened the tools a little tighter, or just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The only person you should compare yourself to is the past you.

    1. Jeanette Grey

      It’s actually one of those big lessons they tend to drill into you at a yoga class. It’s just you and your mat. It doesn’t matter what anyone else can do. Just you.

      Also, I’ve heard it said before that it’s just you and your mat and where you are in your body on that given day. Over years, we expect progress, but not every individual day will be the same as the last. You might sleep funny one night and not be as limber the next day. You might be getting over a cold and not be able to breathe as deeply. We all do our best that we can every individual day, and really, that’s all we can do.

  4. Heather McGovern

    Excellent post and a great reminder I imagine I’ll need for years to come. On a good day, I’m balanced and at peace with my weaknesses, unconcerned about comparisons. On a bad day, it’s easy to fall into woe over what’s weaker in my writing and compare myself to those who have it as a strength. Those are the days I need the discipline to remember it’s not about them. It’s about me and my story.

    1. jeanette grey

      Ugh yes, we all have our good days and our bad days, don’t we? Going to yoga and seeing someone whose athleticism and physique make me envious and then watching them completely fail to get into basic poses helps me keep it all in perspective though :) we all have our things we’re good at, and then our things we need to put a little more practice into.

  5. Lori Waters

    Great post! I try to focus on my journey and recognize how far I’ve come, but boy it’s easy to fall into that slump of ‘will this ever happen to me?’ Thank God, we have each other reminding us not to give up. :)

    1. jeanette grey

      Yes yes. Yoga and writing are both better when done with friends. We need each ither for motivation and encouragement.

  6. Vida

    I second (or sixth, or whatever) the great post comment! Excellent.

  7. Elizabeth Michels

    I love this post, Jeanette. It’s so tempting to look at the list of strengths the person beside you possesses and get discouraged. I think this is great advice in life in general too. You don’t know what anyone is struggling with behind closed doors. Everyone tries to make it all look easy and it isn’t easy for anyone. I find that if I just keep moving forward and keep writing, it keeps me sane in this respect. If my focus and hope is in improving in my next book, then I’m not looking around at anyone else’s work. And, at the end of the day, if I know I did my best then I can appreciate the beauty in the success around me. …that got sort of deep there. LOL Great post!

    1. jeanette grey

      Perfectly said. All we can do is our best. Comparing ourselves with other people doesn’t help anything.

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