I love yoga! Sadly, I often get busy and forget that I love yoga. My friend dragged me along to his studio recently with promises of “we have the most unusual and interesting classes. You’ll learn loads.” Turns out he was right. I did learn a lot. None if it was related to back bends or downward dog though.
At the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if we would like to each share something personal. Everyone agreed that yes they would. There followed a sequence of sharing that still makes me smile. As a facilitator, I have used this type of warm up many times, so I was expecting the first person to share something they were hoping to accomplish or maybe how excited they were that their sister was flying in from Toronto for a visit in two days. It didn’t quite go like that:
Sharer #1: “I’d like to share that I feel awesome because I’ve been having the best sex of my life all week!”
I had to admire her. She was brave and funny… and evidently quite happy! Plus, she clearly didn’t care what anyone thought. There was a bit of a stunned silence followed by the laughter that myself and others couldn’t contain. Then more stunned silence. Finally, the girl next to her became more and more uncomfortable and felt it to be her turn to share.
Sharer #2: “I want to lower my standards and enjoy life a bit more without stopping myself so much.”
Wow! I was itching to say, “You should talk to the girl beside you.” I didn’t. It’s a funny thing about people that have been blessed (or inflicted) with a British upbringing and its exposure to Monty Python and other comedy classics. They often have both an overly developed sense of inappropriate comic innuendo AND a British sense of propriety that stops them sharing it. The later is definitely not a bad thing.
The second girl was on to something important. (The first girl was too, but this isn’t that kind of blog.) Her big want is also the key to developing a productive writing life:
Get out of your own way and you’ll gain momentum.
Tip #1: Lower your standards at the beginning of the creative process
As you sit down to work on the first draft, put those dreams of winning an award or blowing your reader away with insights that are so profound that maybe someone should call Oprah aside. Just start. Raise your standards higher later. Raise them to the highest possible during the revision stage. Raise them to Oprah heights, but do it later. I like to think of my writing at the initial stage as a doodle. No-one critiques doodles. They just doodle.
Tip #2: Lower your standards about what to create
William Stafford, considered by some to be the most widely read poet in the US, used to tell his students, “Lower your standards and keep going.” Pretty great advice! He apparently wrote a poem a day in the early hours of the morning.
Want to be a writer? Then write. It’s as simple as that. Commit to writing something each day be it three pages of a dream project, a blog post, an idea for a blog post, a poem, a post it note full of words that floated around your head and felt juicy to you from your day or a description of the people on the bus. It’s the act of original creation each day that’s important. It creates momentum. A.R.T.S has the motto, “Five minutes a day keeps the block away.” If you have enough of those five minute days, pretty soon you’ll discover you’ll also have days where five minutes can easily turn into hours of stress free creativity.
Only ever sitting down with the intention of brilliantly writing on what you consider to be the “big” project is kind of like walking. Sure you can get places, but when you stop walking you stop. Your commitment to writing anything daily and letting yourself enjoy your first drafts is like a bike. Even if you stop pedaling on the odd occasion, you will still keep rolling for a while. The ideas will still keep flowing as you’ve been used to asking them to.
Lowering your standards at the beginning can help you get started and keep going!
(P.S I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach to dating!)