YOGA AND WRITING -THE PERFECT PARTNERS

 writing ganesh

WHY YOGA AND WRITING TOGETHER?

People often ask why I combine yoga and writing at my retreats.

Yoga and writing are my twin passions. Making me choose between them is akin to forcing a mother to choose between her children –Sophie’s Choice style. Both yoga and writing are part of my daily life and have been for a very long time. Together they have helped me to heal my past and continue to keep me joyfully sane. They also make my writing richer and deeper.

From early childhood I’ve loved writing stories and I’ve been keeping a journal since my teens. Like most people though, I had that innate creativity squashed out of me by formal schooling. But I kept writing my diaries even if, during my most alcohol and drug addicted days, it was simply a way to remember what I’d done the day before.

Yoga came into my life in my early twenties. While I was travelling in Cambodia, a friend gave me a sheet of paper with the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series printed on it and every morning taught a few of us the sequence. That’s now over 25 years ago and I still get up and do my practice almost every single day. Having taught yoga for many years, I know how difficult it is to get students to commit to a daily practice, so I can only thank my addictive personality for keeping me on the mat. Addiction tamed is discipline 🙂 Don’t worry the yoga we do on retreat is much gentler!

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The motto of Ashtanga yoga is “Do your practice and all is coming” and I know now that this works for writing and other creative arts as well. Do your practice, do it regularly, keep focused, and all indeed will come, even if goals such as publication often take longer than we would like. The discipline of a daily yoga practice helped me to develop the discipline of a daily writing practice. Regular practice is how things happen. As one of my other favourite quotes says, “Persistence is the key!”

TOGETHER YOGA AND WRITING HAVE MANY BENEFITS.

On the practical side – writing is a sedentary profession and being stuck in front of a screen for hours is not the best for our health. Combining your daily writing practice with daily exercise is essential for maintaining your vitality. You can only function at a high level intellectually and imaginatively if you’re in good health. Yoga stretches out spines that have been hunched over keyboards, straightens necks that have been craning forward looking at screens, and gets hearts that have been lulled into sloth sitting for too long, pumping freely again.

 

Best of all, yoga helps shift emotions that have been stuck in your body. The postures have been designed to cleanse the body, not just of tension, but of deeper traumas held in our cells. Yoga brings to the surface bottled up feelings and life stories, which you can then release through writing. Not only that, by getting in touch with your bodily sensations through yoga, you’re better able to evoke emotion by expressing the visceral sensations associated with those emotions when you write.

WRITING IS A MEDITATIVE PRACTICE

Writing on a regular basis is a meditative practice, especially when you write stories from your life. Most of us have stories from our pasts that replay over and over again in our minds. Getting them onto the page and creating stories, something beautiful from the pain, frees them from our minds and makes room for new thoughts and new ways of being. Yoga brings the stories to the light, writing them down gets them out of your head and onto the page so you don’t have to keep reliving/retelling/rethinking those same old patterns. Together yoga and writing are the perfect tools for helping you heal your life and create something worthwhile in the process.

All creative arts help us to express the great mystery of human experience. For me the easiest way is with words, for others its drawing or dance or sculpture. Whichever artform you prefer is the place to start.

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And of course, it’s not all just about healing our pasts, it’s about embracing the present as well. Yoga teaches us to live fully in the moment, to breathe deeply and relish each breath, to flow with life. When we’re fully immersed in writing a story or a poem or a screenplay we have moments where we are totally apart from ourselves, at one with the flow of our stories, the flow of creativity. Time doesn’t exist, thought doesn’t exist, we don’t exist – only the story.

That for me is pure joy.

So that’s why I combine yoga and writing on my retreats. Because the very best stories come from our hearts and that universal flow of creation we all share. The best way I know to tap into that flow is through yoga.

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Come along to a retreat and try the combination for yourself. See what stories your body is longing to tell. Rewrite your past and write yourself a bright and sparkling future.

How do you tap into that flow? Do you have any rituals that get you writing? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Lots of love
Edwina xx

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TWO FREE WRITING WORKSHOPS!

 

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I’m thrilled to announce that I’m facilitating two free creative writing workshops in March. I love it when things are free so everyone can come!

2nd MARCH 2019: DEVELOPING PLOT THROUGH CHARACTER 10 am – 12:15pm
ROBINA LIBRARY

On the Gold Coast in Queensland, at Robina Library, I’ll be running a session how to craft a meaningful plot based on your characters’ scars, secrets and desires. Delve deep into the art of writing with this workshop. Whether you’re writing fiction or memoir, it will help you know your story people better and develop a compelling and emotional narrative.

You need to book directly through the library HERE gympie-workshop-1.jpg

 

9th MARCH 2019: INTRODUCTION TO CREATIVE WRITING 1pm – 2:30pm
NUNDAH LIBRARY

In Brisbane’s inner northern suburbs, at Nundah Library, I’m facilitating a class covering the basics of creative writing – Character, Setting, Plot, Point of View and Voice. Suitable for both beginners or for those wanting to refresh their writing practice.

To book see HERE and call the library directly on 07 3407 8701 to reserve your place.gympie-workshop-october-2018.jpg-writing.jpgThese sessions are always a lot of fun and you’ll come away with at least part of a story done, your mind racing with ideas and your hand sore from writing so much!

 

Every workshop I teach includes a deep relaxation designed to quieten your inner critic and free your creative voice. You’ll be surprised the difference it can make.

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And, because it’s important for writers to keep moving, we’ll even do some simple yoga moves to straighten out those sore shoulders and hands from all that writing.

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Come along and say hello, get that story idea out of your head and onto the page. Make sure you let me know you’re there!

These workshops will give you a taste of what it’s like on my retreats, where we cram in so much relaxation, writing and fun you can’t help but feel inspired and motivated to get stuck into your writing projects.

The next retreat is in the mountains near Toowoomba – see HERE for all the details.

 

Any questions about any of these workshops or my retreats? Or want to get regular writing hints and tips, and keep up to date with writing opportunities? Contact me HERE. I’d love to hear from you.

Hope to see you at one of these workshops. Book your spot soon as places for these freebies fill fast!

Lots of love
Edwina xx

RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS!

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Is your creative spirit crying out for a little TLC? Come along and regain your love of writing and life at the next Relax and Write Retreat at Camp Koojarewon in the mountains near Toowoomba, Queensland.

From 2pm FRIDAY 26 APRIL – 1pm 28 APRIL 2019

Join like-minded women in a fun and supportive environment discovering just how much some deep relaxation can ignite your imagination and get you writing again. Relax and unwind with gentle morning yoga sessions and get writing with innovative workshops that use yoga and drama techniques to help move those stories out of your head and onto the page.

The program includes two full yoga sessions and four creative writing workshops covering the basics of story development, whether you’re writing memoir, fiction or screenplays, as well as hints and tips on editing and submitting your work to publishers.

Cost includes two nights basic dorm accommodation –we have the run of the whole camp so no one will have to sleep on a top bunk unless they want to and we’ll have plenty of room to spread out (a couple of ensuite rooms are available for those with health issues or special needs) — plus delicious vegetarian meals, morning and afternoon teas and suppers.

Come along and join the fun, make new writing buddies and rekindle your love of writing.

Contact Edwina for more info and bookings.

COST
Includes basic dorm accommodation, all meals, two yoga classes and four creative writing workshops.
$400 for the weekend of yoga, writing, fun and feasting – Or pay your $200 deposit before 8 March 2019 for EARLY BIRD $360

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Edwina Shaw has been writing and publishing since 2002. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of QLD and is also an experienced yoga teacher. Her book Thrill Seekers was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and has recently been released as a new imprint through Raven Books UK. Her feature film project M is under development with a producer attached. She is a registered teacher and runs workshops at schools and writers’ festivals through Speakers Ink and the QLD Writers Centre and also works as an editor and mentor. She lives in Brisbane where she can most often be found writing, doing yoga, or daydreaming. She loves helping other women rediscover their creative spirits and get their bodies moving again.

SENTENCE BY SENTENCE, WORD BY WORD – 5 Hints and Tips for cleaning up your prose

On retreat I always make sure there’s one session that focuses on the nitty gritty of writing, though most of the time we’re generating new material. It’s important to learn some elements of craft.

Over the past 17 years or so of writing, editing, studying the craft of writing, and teaching writing in the community and in universities, I’ve learnt a few easy tricks to help get your sentences working hard.

My favourite quote on the craft of writing is from George Orwell – “Good prose is as transparent as glass.”

For me this means, keep it simple superstar! Don’t get carried away with trying to sound “Writerly”, clever, witty, mad or however you think a writer should sound. The writing shouldn’t detract from the story itself. If a reader is stopping to ponder the meaning of your sentences, then they’ve lost touch with your story and that’s never good.

Let your story shine by keeping your writing as clean and clear as a pane of glass. Every sentence, every word has to serve a purpose. It must either drive the story forward, illustrate character, establish setting or add to the story in some meaningful way.

Whether you’re writing flash fiction, short stories, novels or screenplays the same rule applies. Which leads me to my first tip –

1. Does that sentence need to be there at all?
After you’ve written a fast and furious first draft and fallen out of love with it a little, go back and check. Is every scene really necessary or did you just get carried away and veer off course? Do you really need a full paragraph describing that lake or will one good sentence combining the best of that paragraph work much better? The same applies for every word. Go through your work with a fine-tooth comb – think nit comb!

In longer works you need to apply this to large chunks as well – Does that chapter need to be there? Does that scene?

Be brutal – save cut bits in another file so you won’t be heartbroken. I do this all the time but have rarely gone back in and rescued one of my darlings. But they’re still there – just in case 😊

2. Trim adjectives and adverbs

Yes, you’ve heard it before and for good reason. Writing styles have changed since those 19th century novels you love to read. Readers these days have a multitude of fast-paced alternatives to a book and most won’t wade through pages of description of a room Henry James’ style. In my university classes I still have many students decorating every noun with a string of adjectives because that’s what they’ve been taught to do all the way through school. ARGH! Get rid of them.
Think of adjectives and adverbs as salt and pepper – a little adds flavour but too much and you’ll ruin your dish.
Metaphors and similes are like chillies – hot peppers. Yes they’re great, but use too many at your peril.

3. Use specific nouns and strong verbs

Instead of all those adjectives, use nouns that do their job instead. Be specific.
For instance, instead of “colourful noisy birds made loud noises in the tall riverside gum trees”, write “Rainbow lorikeets screeched in the branches of a flooded gum.”

The same goes for verbs. Instead of “She walked slowly”, you could use strolled or ambled or limped or staggered. See how much meaning can be packed into one good verb? English has lots of them – put them to work!

4. Get rid of “There is”

Although we use these words (and “It is” and “There are” etc) often in speech, they create unnecessary clutter in our writing. When we were in high school padding out words for assignments they were useful, but now we know better.
For example; “There is an old car sitting in the driveway of the old house,” can easily be improved by cutting the “There is” and using a strong verb and specific noun (and an adjective) “A beat-up old Holden ute lay rusting in the driveway.”

5. Get rid of “I can,” and “S/he can”.

It’s still perfectly okay to write, she can ride a bike. I’m talking about when you are detracting from the reader’s experience of the visceral in your writing by always filtering it through your characters’ perceptions.
“I could feel the rain falling on my face” – changes to “The rain fell like tears on my face.”
“She could feel the sun burning into the back of her neck” – becomes “The sun burnt into the back of her neck turning it hot pink.”

Of course, these are only hints and tips and all rules are meant to be broken. So if you really need two adjectives for the rhythm of your sentence go right ahead and use them. Just please, pretty please never write “She whispered very quietly” or I may have to scream!

I hope these ideas are helpful. What hints and tips are your favourites? I love to learn about writing and learn most from other writers, so do share your ideas in the comments below.

Write like furies!

Lots of love

Edwina