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Monday, October 29, 2012

Everything I Needed to Know about Freelancing I Learned from Yoga Class


Today's post ties is actually an essay that ran in The Writer earlier this year. It ties in with my post on the importance of staying physical as a freelancer. Also, if you're in the Chicago area and want to publish a book, check out this Saturday's Dream Chicago publishing program, which I'm presenting. You'll come away with insights into the publishing process you can use regardless of what kind of book you're writing. 

Now, onto why yoga is good not only for your body and soul, but for your freelance career as well: 

I started doing yoga for purely physical reasons. After 25+ years of running regularly, I was starting to notice a lot of nagging aches and an overall stiffness that never went away. I may have been fit but I was far from flexible, so I gave the whole downward-facing dog thing a try.

With just six months of practice under my belt, I’m still a yoga newbie. Yet I’ve found that much of what I’ve learned on my mat makes sense for my writing career as well. Whether you already know what “Namaste” means or have yet to unroll a mat, you may find these yoga truths applicable to your freelance work too:

Show up on your mat. My yoga instructor always reminds us to honor ourselves for coming to class, and for taking the time to do something good for ourselves. At the beginning of class, we’re told to let our thoughts and emotions (good and bad) go and to just focus on our breath, and on the asanas, or poses, we perform. That’s what is important. Freelance lesson: Commit to your writing career, and make it a priority.

The pose you like the least is the one tyou need the most. I love tree pose, or vrksasana, because I’m good at it. But I groan inwardly when we’re told to move into crow (bakasana) because I’m afraid I’ll fall when I attempt it—and I have. I only keep trying because I know pushing my boundaries and facing my fear is part of yoga practice. Freelance lesson: Don’t just stick with what comes easily to you. Stretch yourself and learn new skills that will help your business.

Lack of motion doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Chair pose, or ukatasana, involves sitting back in an invisible chair, keeping your weight in your heels, and stretching your arms above your head. You’re not moving, but simply holding the pose strengthens your core, your legs, and your arms—and your resolve. Maintain this pose for more than a few seconds, and you’ll feel it—your body is working hard even though you’re motionless. Freelance lesson: Yes, part of writing (the most visible part) is getting your words down. But part of writing is thinking. Pondering. Planning. Considering. Reconsidering. Discovering. Recognize that the motionless part of writing is valuable, even essential.

Every day is different. Some days yoga seems effortless, my body flexible and strong. I’m able to hold poses I normally struggle with. Other days I feel weak, uncoordinated, and frustrated. I can’t predict how my practice will be; my flexibility, strength, and mental resolve vary from day to day. Freelance lesson: Some days your productivity soars. Other days, the words barely dribble from your fingers. Accept that you can’t control the outcome—and hope for a better day tomorrow.

Your practice, your mat. Like I said, I’m a relative novice, doing yoga alongside people who have practiced for years. I’m amazed, envious, and yes, intimated by the men and women in class who pop up into handstands with no apparent effort. I have to remind myself that yoga isn’t about competing against other people. The only thing that matters is my practice and what I do on my mat. Freelance lesson: There will always be writers who are more talented or more successful than you. Don’t worry about them; focus on your own writing and career.

The more you practice, the further you’ll go. Yoga isn’t about comparing yourself against others, but about stretching your own limitations. Regular practice makes you stronger, more flexible, and calmer as well. If I make time to do yoga four or five times a week, I’m more centered and focused both on and off the mat than the weeks I only get in one session. Freelance lesson: There’s no substitute for writing. The more time you put in, the better writer you’ll become and the easier it will be to grow your business.

You never know when you’ll have a breakthrough. I was a weak, uncoordinated kid who couldn’t turn a cartwheel. I struggled for months to try to do a full wheel, or urdhva dhanurasana, but I wasn’t strong enough to push myself up onto my hands. Then one class I exhaled, pushed, and found myself in full wheel. Months of effort suddenly paid off in one glorious moment, which reinvigorated my dedication to my practice. Freelance lesson: You can’t control when you’ll sell your work. But if you keep writing and marketing your writing, you’ll eventually have an editor say “yes.”

And now, my confession--I haven't been to yoga in two weeks! My new priority: to show up on my mat tomorrow. :) 
**Coming up, I'll have a guest post in honor of National Novel Writing Month from Rochelle Melander, author of Write-a-Thon: Write your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About it)!