The Creative Struggle

I popped in a yoga DVD this morning and let Rodney Yee kick my ass. I lay on the mat a while after the routine finished and I felt like I just had a 4-hour crash course in mixed martial arts fighting. To be fair, it's been weeks since I've done any yoga or even any serious stretching, so today I struggled against the poses and paid for it.

Found at Caterpickles
Which, of course, runs completely counter to the philosophy behind yoga.

Yoga doesn't tell you to beat the crap out of yourself. Yoga doesn't have an achievement system with ranks or belts. For me, yoga is intensely personal. It's an invitation to explore yourself by fully inhabiting poses which stretch and bend your body in ways you don't normally move. For me, yoga acts as moving meditation, where the mind empties and I invite myself to relax into new experiences.

Except for days like today, when it feels like I need to defeat each pose.

So I thought about all of this, and I reflected back to the RPG projects on my plate. That same attitude of conflict and challenge reared its ugly head and smiled at me. And I tightened up, my fight-or-flight reflexes tensing for a struggle.

But it was the wrong struggle. I had already lost the more relevant battle.

Challenging Writing
I wrote an article for a forthcoming RPG supplement, and I'm in the process of rewriting and editing now. Getting that first draft onto paper took the life out of me. It felt more and more difficult to get the words out as I wrote. I knew what I wanted to write, but the approaching deadline and the fear that I wouldn't be able to communicate what was in my head kept popping up and derailing my writing process. I keep falling into the trap which is best expressed through the words of a fortune cookie:
Writer's Block is when the crap
in your head gets in the way.
"The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing, because you think you can only do a little."
It hurt to turn in for editing. It felt half-assed and unfocused. It felt unfinished. I feared outright rejection, and I asked for help. Luckily, I got the help and perspective I needed from that first round of feedback, and the process continues.

This is what editors do. They provide an outside perspective and ask the tough questions to get writers thinking in a different way. With everything I do, I try to learn how to become a better editor, a better ally on whatever project I'm involved with. This article, though painful to work through, has shown me new ways to approach the editing process which I'm totally stealing and adding to my tool kit.

Which Struggle?
The struggle to get words on paper or to edit another few pages of a project in't the important struggle. If you're struggling to write or fighting with yourself to keep working even though you feel like you're killing yourself, resolve that first. Some people call this process Sharpening Your Axe, and there's merit in that metaphor.

I draw from yoga and mindfulness. Don't force yourself to do anything. Take a breath, and invite yourself to work. If you lash out, explore where that reaction came from and why it presented itself that way. Steer clear of blame and finger-pointing; this is about you and your attitude toward your work. If a block or an issue comes up, ask yourself to put it aside for a while and bring it up later. Invite yourself back to your desk and the work that waits there.

Found at Yoga Dork
No whips, no sticks, no angry nun who will rap you on the knuckles with a metal ruler if you don't get this done. You don't need that. You just need to get all the crap in your head out of the way. You need a clear path between you and your work. Get out of your own way and your work will do itself. The crap in your head won't go away, so just tell yourself you'll put it aside for a few and come back to it later. Once you finish your work, the crap may not matter any more and it'll melt away like morning dew.

Focus is a struggle. If you bring weapons to the fight for focus you've already lost. It's not a titanic battle, it's a thousand instances of tiny choices every hour. It's every bit as hard as yelling at yourself, but less draining. Let go of the blame and internal dialogue. Let go of the crap. Stop thinking about the project and let yourself actually do the project.

Let go. Write. Edit.

I wrote this mostly to focus my own thoughts. I've got a couple of days mostly free to work on RPG projects and get them out the door. If you find something useful here, then I'm glad I shared it.

Thanks for reading!

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