The Yoga of Writing a Novel

Last month, as you may already know, was National Novel Writing Month. Every November, hundreds of thousands of individuals take on the challenge to write, in one month, a novel of at least 50,000 words. That means at least 1,667 words each day. It doesn’t have to be a good novel and it doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be written.

This is my fourth year trying NaNoWriMo. I usually end the month with a few thousand words… that’s about two days worth of the kind of writing necessary, done laboriously over the course of the entire month. This year, without midterms, papers, professors, and all the other excuses I’ve had in the past, I was determined to make this happen. (Full confession: I reused last year’s novel… all 3,647 words of it. As this only covered the first two days of writing, which I forgot to do this year anyway, I feel pretty ok with this “cheating”.)

Now, I’ve never written this much on one topic in one cohesive body of work before, and the writing I did last month felt like magic to me. It turns out that when I write, there are a lot of similarities to yoga.

When I take too much time off, it’s harder to get myself into the swing of it again…

but when I try to force it, it’s painful.

When I listen to negative criticism, I’m tempted to scrap it all and never try again.

When I get something right, I feel it right away.

When I go with the flow, something unexpected and amazing always happens.

It was amazing how one paragraph built on the next, how before I even realized it I had pages and pages worth of words, and even though the chapters didn’t always go the way I expected, and there were a lot of unexpected side-tracks that my characters insisted on taking, the story flows, it’s clearly a cohesive whole with its own definite direction… and even if I don’t always feel like I’m the one steering, it still turns out exactly as it’s supposed to. Looking in retrospect, the words “life” or “yoga” could so easily be interchanged with “story” and “chapter”. Everything happens for a reason, and it’s awe inspiring to see it in my life leading me to where and when I am right now, and it’s also inspiring to see it in the microcosm of my story.

It was also really interesting to see, even as I wrote this post, some of the areas where a little more discipline would benefit me in my yoga practice. The biggest one for me is feeling clearer about the line I walk between taking time off and taking too much time off, between discipline and forcing myself to the mat. It highlighted that, if I have enough time to write a novel in one month, I certainly have enough time each day for a little pranayama (breathwork). And it reminded me that I love creating new things! New class flows to teach, new stories, and new artwork…

It felt so empowering to choose something like that and stick to it, so… this month I’m trying two things:

I’m declaring this December “Drawing” Month, trying to create 100 drawings and other pieces of art (they don’t have to be good, they just have to get created) in the month.

And I’m also committing to a month of daily pranayama practice. So yoga classes, get ready! We’ll be doing all the old favorites this month (Ujjayi, Anuloma Viloma, kapalabhati) and a few new breath exercises as I explore new meditations.

And… yes! I did finish NaNoWriMo with a total of 50,222 words this year!

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~ by Carmen Celeste Thurston on December 2, 2011.

3 Responses to “The Yoga of Writing a Novel”

  1. I want to read your novel :)

  2. Carmen: you are wonderful and amazing! Not surprised, just reminded since I don’t see you often enough :) Love, Aunt Catherine

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