Dear wonderful, caring yoga teacher:
Time to write that book that has been percolating in your mind and heart.
Time to remember how much you actually know and how much you have to share.
Time to send your story, your heart, your thoughts, and your experience into the world in a way that maybe you haven’t done before.
Like your yoga practice, writing the book that only you can write takes a beautiful combination of enthusiasm, commitment, discipline, self-compassion, action, rest, observation, and — most of all — love. Because when it comes right down to it, you do what you do because of love.
“YES!” you may be thinking.
“But…wait…how do I even get started? All I have are ideas. How do I tackle an entire book?”
Or, maybe you’ve been writing blog posts for some time. You know that people seem to respond well to — and resonate with — your writing, and there are pieces you’d love to share…but you don’t know what’s important and what’s not, or how to organize it into an actual book.
Or maybe you’re struggling with the oh-so-common “I’m not enough” syndrome, which goes something like this: “But I’m not [insert famous rock-star teacher with a huge platform here], and books like this are already being written by [insert list of famous people here], so why would anyone want to read what I write? Who am I to write this?”
OK, so – that? That’s a whole blog post in and of itself. Because: OH MY GOSH IT’S ONLY THE REALLY STUNNING, CONSCIOUS, CREATIVE, CARING PEOPLE WHO FEEL THAT WAY!!! If you feel that way, that means we need you! The world needs you! Please, please, please write your book. And, for now, simply thank that voice very kindly for its concern, reassure it that you will take care of its fear and it doesn’t have to worry, give it a healthy vegan raw chocolate snack, and suggest it rest in a long, healing Savasana while you write your book.
Then get back to the process of starting.
In my years of helping yoga teachers write, revise, and publish their books, I’ve worked with a lot of different people, all with different needs and sensibilities.
Over time, I’ve developed a few methods to help you write your book. Methods that work, that help you cut through the overwhelm or confusion and simply start.
Before we get into the actual techniques, here are a few thoughts that, like the perfect warm-up for a peak pose, will open you up to make writing your book fun, smooth, and calm.
Just as with a yoga or meditation practice, there isn’t one way that works for everyone. Finding the best way for you and your book is something to approach with beginner’s mind and with as much curiosity and enthusiasm as you can muster. Hold this process loosely, letting it unfold into what it wants to be.
Like in a yoga class, do what feels right and healing to you, and skip the rest.
Take Child’s Pose when you need to.
Push to your edge when you need to.
Be willing to change your mind and choose a different approach partway through.
Breathe deeply. Be kind. Watch what comes up.
And always remember: the only “right way” is the one that works for you.
A FEW MORE THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
1. The Rules
There are no rules.
Well — that’s not entirely true. After decades of being a writer myself and working with yoga teachers and novelists who are writing books, there is one rule that I’ve discovered is quite mandatory for writing a book.
You actually have to write.
The only required rule.
Everything else is negotiable.
2. Don’t worry AT ALL about whether or not you can write
Seriously. I mean it.
Could you do a handstand with proper alignment the first time you got onto a mat? Or sit without fidgeting in meditation for 40 minutes right off the bat? Probably not (and if you could, you were far more advanced than I was!). And yet, you kept showing up. You kept practicing. Something in it called to you, and you were willing to be where you were, work up to things, fall, or be frustrated or distracted or irritated or even (gasp) happy.
Writing your book is exactly the same. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re good or if you think of yourself as a writer. All you have to do is show up and do the writing practice. To butcher two different famous quotes, one from Pattabhi Jois and the other from prolific children’s book author Jane Yolen: “Put your butt in the chair and do the writing practice, and all else follows.”
Sometimes it might flow in the most brilliant of waterfalls. Sometimes it will feel as though you have barely dragged your tired self onto the mat and now you have no idea what to do other than sit there. That’s okay. In fact, it’s perfect. It’s all part of it.
3. Don’t try to write finished, polished, beautiful words and sentences. Don’t even try to write well. Save that for revisions.
When you’re getting started, the whole idea is to get words onto the paper. Later, sure, you’re going to come back and adjust the alignment of those words until they are straight and true and lovely and other people might actually want to read them. But not yet. No matter how brilliant the writer, no one writes good first drafts unless there’s some weird divine intervention happening (which is awesome, but really, really rare).
Think of this draft of your book as a brand new student, someone who is a little intimidated by even walking into a yoga studio. Their Downward Dog probably sucks. They are going to hurt themselves if you let them stay in that alignment for the next year. BUT…as a good teacher, you aren’t going to spend forty minutes getting their Downward Dog into perfect alignment the first time they come to class, even though you know they need it.
Instead, you’d probably help them get into the basic shape of the pose, give them encouragement, and then move on to the next pose.
Eventually, if this student keeps coming, they will be ready for the more and more subtle adjustments, the ones that, though tiny, make all the difference. Eventually, their poses will shine with open lines of energy and sweet strength. But if you were to start with those advanced, tiny, subtle adjustments, you would probably never see that student again.
Treat your writing the same way. Go slowly. Be kind. Let this draft be terrible. Get the basic shape of the words or ideas onto the page and don’t try to do the subtle adjusting, not yet. Just throw the words onto the paper, words you understand and can come back to later to fix. Then congratulate yourself and move on to the next part.
4. Hold space for the book to reveal itself
Most yoga teachers are writing a nonfiction book, which is what this article is focused on. Fiction writing is a whole other beast, and you’ll want different techniques for approaching that animal. If this is you, I have tons of suggestions. Email me or comment below and I’ll send you links.
For most of you, the book in your head is likely either an instructional “how-to,” something inspirational, or a memoir-type book of personal stories — or something that combines these in your own unique way.
If you aren’t sure which it is, that’s okay! You don’t have to know this to begin. The shape of the book will reveal itself to you through the writing, much in the same way a challenging pose reveals itself through consistent practice. The practice here is sitting down to write. That’s where the magic happens.
5. You don’t have to write every day
Write when it fits into your schedule. Just make sure you find a way to fit it in, whether it’s 30 minutes a week, an hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or one week on, one week off.
There are four different techniques I use with clients to help them start writing their books.
Each technique is divided into four 30-minute writing sessions. You can do these sessions on different days, or all at once, or two at a time, or whatever works for you. Also — these techniques are not mutually exclusive! Feel free to mix and match to create something that works for you.
1. If you are an intuitive, non-linear thinker: Feel your way into it
2. If you like planning and structure and do well with details: Plan your way into it
3. If you resonate with visualizations or affirmations: Start at the end
4. If you already have material you want to turn into a book: Start from blog posts, articles, or journals you already have
Click on the one you’d like to try. For ease of reading, I’ve written them each in a different post, but at the end of each are links to the others.
So, my thoughtful and brilliant yoga friend, there you have it. And no matter which technique you choose, the most important part is…
…setting the timer and starting.
Do your your practice and all is coming.
We need your words. Set them free.
I’d love to hear in the comments below how you’re feeling about writing your book! I read and reply to every comment. And if you find this useful, feel free to share it with other yoga teachers.