Last September, I finished my 500-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training Program. It was a yearlong exploration of all things yoga—including meditation, pranayama, restorative postures, spiritual creativity, Yin Yoga, and the Yoga Sutras. I learned a great deal, especially about myself. The culminating assignment of the ATT program was a 30-page thesis. I chose to write about how yoga has been the catalyst for profound changes that have occurred in my life emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. I hosted a two-hour workshop about my transformation story, and shared my thesis with the attendees so they could read it in advance.
The ATT thesis workshop went well. A group of wonderfully supportive friends, from all the different aspects of my life, came to show their support. I led them through some personal reflection and group exercises, as well as a 45-minute asana (movement) practice. Several of those who came shared that they thought my thesis was moving and well written; they encouraged me to keep working on the piece and perhaps develop it into something longer. Since January, I have been doing just that. I have been going back in time to remember what I used to be like before yoga, discussing how the practice has benefitted me, and describing the noticeable shifts that have happened over time. I assembled a writing group of friends to provide encouragement, support, and accountability for my project, which I was brave enough to call a "memoir." I set out to get a nice chunk of the memoir written this summer since my consulting responsibilities would be at a minimum.
I decided to kick-start work on my memoir with a weeklong writers retreat in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. I signed up for the memoir workshop facilitated by an experienced and published writer. Each participant was asked to submit a 20-page manuscript to share with our fellow workshop members. I reviewed the 30 pages I had written last year for my thesis. To it, I added about 10 more pages that I had written by hand from January through May. With more than 40 pages of unedited work, I then began the task of deciding which piece(s) I would submit. A few days before Memorial Day, I turned in my manuscript and began to prepare for my week in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The retreat didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I got a lot of writing done (more than two hours a day on average), and I was able to learn from experienced authors about their processes and journeys to publication. But I was feeling out of sorts emotionally, and really didn’t open up to my fellow workshop participants. In fact, I let them know that I had no interest in receiving any feedback or criticism from them (despite the fact that these are the cornerstones of the workshop approach). The week drew to a close, and I made the three-hour drive back to DC alone. I expected to come back from the retreat inspired and motivated to continue working throughout the summer. I wanted to set aside 3 hours each morning to write, and then have the afternoons to do whatever I wanted. That never happened. After attending the retreat, I was paralyzed with fear and doubt.
How was I going to structure the memoir?
As a result, I did very little writing this summer beside my daily morning pages. I slowed down on publishing my blog, and didn’t add much to the memoir manuscript I had worked on in Roanoke. I felt so disappointed in myself, which only made me feel worse. I can’t think of a time in my life when I lacked ambition. In grade school, I craved the perfect scores on my spelling and arithmetic tests. In high school, I worked hard to maintain a perfect GPA and graduate at the top of my class. After graduation from college, I dreamed of founding a boarding school for at-risk kids—and then later opened a neighborhood yoga studio. But when my hormones went wild hit this summer, and the fears and doubts followed, I had no desire to do anything.
Fortunately, I discovered a weekly writing group that met at a public library in Northeast DC for two hours every Wednesday afternoon. Since I wasn’t doing the three hours of daily writing I had originally planned, I decided I would attend the writing group sessions no matter what, and do whatever I could in those two hours. It was tough. I still wasn’t feeling inspired or motivated. During one meeting, I decided to take some of the pressure off. I stopped worrying about writing the memoir, getting it published, and marketing it to audiences. That felt good. For the sake of my sanity, I decided to go even further; I put the memoir on a shelf. Instead, I allowed myself to go back to what was comfortable and familiar—my weekly blog posts—while I allowed my hormones to settle down and my motivation to return.
In hindsight, I can see a few things:
With these lessons learned, I am going back to the memoir with a whole new attitude. Who knows what structure it will take, and how I will attack the writing? Who knows when it will get finished? Who knows if it will ever get published? Who knows how many people will ever read it? None of those things matter if I am enjoying the process.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.