The Power of An Author Who Can Share Her Insides

Prozac Nation Book CoverAt least sixteen years ago, maybe more, I read Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation and saw myself.

These days, it’s de rigueur to dismiss Wurtzel as a chaotic, self-involved mess. But back then, after receiving a diagnosis of chronic depression with bipolar tendencies, I ate up Wurtzel’s navel-gazing, book-length confessional. I read about her struggles with depression and, in a time when going to therapy was still a bit taboo to talk about, I began to feel a little bit less alone.Continue Reading

Book Recommendations To Bring You Closer to Inner Peace… or a Stronger Yoga Practice

Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi Home ImageA few weeks ago, when I learned that Brian Leaf had just come out with a new book, I literally squee’d. I’d loved his previous book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, and this new one—Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi—aimed to hit two of my sweet spots: my yoga addiction and my impending motherhood.

Yes, I realize my last book roundup was about horror and despair and terror and creeping unease, but I’m also a vinyasa yoga instructor and meditate twice a day and wake up to the sound of Tibetan singing bowls (thanks to an iPhone app) every morning. As I’m sure I’ve said before, I contain multitudes.

So I’ve amassed quite the recommended reading list for those looking to incorporate yoga into their day-to-day lives.

Please. Reap the bounties of my nerdiness.Continue Reading

Write As If…

as if 1

This is not me. But I’m getting there…

I have a problem with inversion. I’ve never been able to do a cartwheel, a handstand, or a headstand. On my high school swim team, I was consigned to the backstroke because I couldn’t dive off the blocks.

(I balk, I panic, I freak out, I fail. It might be some instinct for self-preservation, or perhaps I wasn’t swung by the toes enough as a child.)

Over the past ten years, I’ve developed an otherwise dedicated and intense yoga practice that happens to include curling up in a little ball whenever people start balancing upside down.

And then a few weeks ago, my Ashtanga teacher said something so weirdly profound that at first I dismissed it as yoga-patchouli-lemongrass speak. “Don’t just try to do a headstand,” she said. “Do a headstand as if you already knew how.”

This was so different from the usual advice (Strong core! Straight legs!) that I decided to try. It would require a mental leap, but then mental leaps are what writers do best. It was more acting than yoga: I am a person who loves headstands. What’s my motivation? Upside-downness.

I was so into my role that I wasn’t even shocked when my legs started floating up, when my body locked into a balance that felt as familiar as bike-balance, as walking-up-stairs-with-a-coffee balance.

I started thinking that night about the writing students I’ve seen struggle with confidence in their projects and their own skills. They’ll often stop and examine their insecurities, as if dissection and analysis might get them past the fear that they’re writing the whole thing wrong. I wonder, though, if there isn’t a more expedient solution.

This is what I’m going to tell them from now on, what I’m going to wish for them:

Continue Reading

Exercising Your Craft: 3 Writers Who Get Physical

Haruki Murakami, a notable runner-writer.

Haruki Murakami, a notable runner-writer.

I have a writer friend whose employment info on her Facebook profile always makes me laugh. Under “Position,” she wryly reports “Hunched Over a Desk.”

Treadmill desks and Hemingway-style standing aside, most writers spend a lot of time sitting. We’re exhorted to with quotes like this one from Mary Heaton Vorse: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” (Or maybe just with the modern-day, abbreviated version: “Get your butt in the chair and write.”) Personally, I do some of my best work in an even more sedentary position: reclining with my laptop in the lazy comfort of my own bed.

But getting out of the chair (or futon) can be pretty great for your writing too. Sports, dance, or even just a brisk walk through the neighborhood can provide the perfect antidote to “writer’s hunch.” And there’s something in the rhythm and fluidity of physical movement that can dissolve the stubbornest of mental blocks.

My story: I was never much into sports as a kid or teenager, but I took up running in my early thirties, around the same time I started working on my novel. Short runs in Central Park during the early days of sketching scenes soon turned into longer distances. I eventually began signing up for marathons, which I trained for while pacing-out and enduring multiple manuscript drafts. I’ve completed eight marathons at the time of writing (and, if all goes well, by the time this post is published, I’ll have just finished my ninth: Berlin on September 29th). I often wish it were the other way round: nine novels and one marathon. But, hey, you do what you can do.

I credit running with lending structure to my writing sessions, building discipline and mental stamina, and giving me the physical means to limber up my mind. I wondered whether it was the same for writers who rely on other forms of physical activity, so I asked a few: a classically trained dancer, a certified yoga instructor, and a former lifeguard. Here’s what they said.Continue Reading

Half Moon Pose and the Writer’s Split Consciousness

You can get into Half Moon pose in any number of ways, but here’s the sequence I like best:

1. From down dog, lift your right leg, inhale.

2. Step the leg between your hands into a low lunge, exhale.

3. Rise up into Warrior I, inhale.

4. Windmill open into Warrior II, exhale.

5. Flip your front palm up, arch back into Peaceful Warrior, inhale.

6. Transfer your weight into the front foot and lift the back leg until it’s parallel with the ground; lower your front hand until it’s planted a few inches in front of your standing leg. Stretch the other hand up toward the sky. Spin the torso open.

Exhale.Continue Reading