Make this the year you write your yoga bestseller
Have you ever thought you’d like to write a yoga book? In this blog post I'll share with you some writing tips, techniques, suggestions and encouraging words to get you started on your writing journey. (This post has been adapted from an article I wrote for the Summer 2020 edition of Spectrum, the official magazine of the British Wheel of Yoga).
Write Your Passion
Is there a subject you’re really interested in that sparks your curiosity? Is it like an itch and you can’t rest until you’ve found the answer? Is there something that makes you so indignant that you want to do something about it to bring about change? Yes? Well come on then…get writing! You are unique and only you can tell this story in your own unique way, and, if you don’t tell it, it will go forever untold.
Writing, for me, is about curiosity. When I get intrigued by a subject, it becomes like a puzzle that I want to solve through the writing process. My original motivation to write was that I wanted to solve the mystery of women’s involvement in (or absence from) the history of yoga. I wanted to know what an authentic women’s yoga would look like if over the millennia yoga, instead of being handed down from father to son, it had been handed down through a female lineage from mother to daughter. It was trying to solve this mystery that led me, in a roundabout way, to develop a seasonal approach to yoga, and to write my first book, Yoga Through the Year.
If you want to write…my best advice to you is…well write! If you have ideas in your head, then get them down on paper (or digital equivalent). Nowadays, there are so many opportunities to practice your writing. You can mindfully text, tweet, email, blog, write a card, or even a letter to someone. To be honest when I started writing I didn’t think of myself as the sort of person who would get a book published. I didn’t know anyone who moved in those circles. My main motivation for writing was that I was curious, and I wanted to share my ideas. So, I created websites. I blogged. I wrote newsletters. I shared my ideas and I gave them away for free. My Seasonal Yoga website attracted thousands of visitors and I received many complimentary emails, and so it dawned on me that lots of people shared my passions and wanted to take part in this conversation too.
I think the internet is a wonderful thing, especially for women, as we can get our ideas out there and bypass the usual gatekeepers. So, my advice to you is, get started, get writing, get your ideas out there and build a community of like minds to cheer you on. Take one step at a time and have faith that it will lead you a step closer to becoming a published author.
Write With Mindfulness
Writing a book requires a lot of stamina. Along the way your writing can be a nourishing, spiritual practice if you bring the same mindfulness to it that you bring to your yoga practice. In fact, your yoga practice is a great asset to your writing because it relaxes you and gives you access to your unconscious mind where all your best and most original ideas reside. For me yoga and writing go hand in hand. Before I start a piece of writing I do ten minutes of mindful walking, and my focus for the meditation will be whatever I am writing about that day. I find this a great way of freeing up my ideas. As I walk, I’m aware of the contact my feet are making with the earth beneath me. I allow ideas to come and go, and if my mind wanders off to everyday concerns, I gently bring it back to focusing on my chosen writing theme. Try it and I’m sure you’ll be inspired!
All my books have been written using a technique called writing meditation. It’s a great way to get your ideas flowing, shift creative blocks, and gain access to the wisdom of your subconscious mind. Personally, I like the physicality of writing with pen and paper. However, it’s fine to work digitally too.
Set your timer (for 10-20 minutes) and start writing. Keep your pen in contact with the paper and keep writing until your timer goes. Write down whatever comes into your head. Your aim is to capture the stream of thoughts and feelings as they flow through your mind. Let go of your inner editor! It doesn’t matter how off the wall your thoughts are, just get them down! Later, after the meditation has finished, you can read through and separate the nougats of gold from the stones and grit. But for now, just keep that pen moving! Be reassured that whatever you write down during your meditation is for your eyes only! No need to pay attention to handwriting, neatness, spelling, grammar, presentation etc.
Be aware of the physical act of writing and how it feels to be someone sitting here writing. Relax any parts of your body that don’t need to be engaged with the act of writing. If you find that you’re tensing up, slow your writing down, consciously relax, and reconnect with the flow of your breath. At the same time keep writing! A relaxed attitude will help you to access your subconscious mind, and it’s here that we uncover our gold.
Learn to Write
I’d been working for a few years on my first book when it struck me that I didn’t know how to write! Yes, I could string words together on paper and I had no shortage of ideas, but in order to convey my ideas more effectively I needed to learn writing skills and to master my craft. It was a humbling moment, and it did slow me down considerably as I set myself the task of completing a course on writing. This paid off, as subsequently I started getting articles published in yoga magazines and it eventually led to my first book, Yoga Through the Year, being accepted for publication.
It's fine to be experimental in your writing, but you’ll be a better communicator if you’ve taken the time to learn your craft. For example, take the artist Picasso, his work is pure iconoclastic genius. However, it only works because he knows the rules of drawing and painting and so can confidently break them.
Behind Every Good Book is a Great Editor
When you start out on your writing journey remember not to put your Inner Editor in the driving seat, as they will relentlessly criticise your writing and convince you that it’s rubbish. At this early stage on the path this is not what you need! Instead try to cultivate self-compassion and kindness for yourself, as this will create the right conditions for creativity to grow and flourish. However, once your confidence has grown you will need to reinstate your Inner Editor, who at this stage has an important job to do of discerning what’s good writing and what is not.
Give yourself time to build up confidence and resilience before you share your work with others; done too soon and it will set you back. However, when you’re ready take the plunge and share what you’ve written with trusted others. It takes the loneliness out of writing and helps you to feel part of a community.
Whilst I was writing Yoga Through the Year, before I’d got a publishing deal, I enlisted a group of trusted readers to read chapters of the book and give me feedback. I selected readers with different skills to offer. One was great at spotting typos and bad grammar. Another was a “critical friend” sometimes giving me advice I didn’t want to hear but that helped to improve my writing. Still another was chosen because she had a great knack of cheering me on.
All the above steps in this article will prepare you for the big day when you submit your finished manuscript to a publisher. I was lucky, the first publisher I approached accepted my seasonal yoga book. Fortunately, my editor saw something in my raw talent and was prepared to nurture it, and with her help (and lots of red lines through my original manuscript) together we made my Yoga Through the Year book the best it could be.
For me getting my first book published (and soon my second) is a dream come true! I hope your dreams of writing a yoga best seller come true too. Moreover, I hope that your writing journey transforms you and that you learn something new along the way. Enjoy the ride!
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Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.