Melissa Baumgart

Back to Basics

Recently I’ve been struggling with (1) a new first draft and (2) some injuries that have derailed my formerly (over)active fitness schedule. Before you ask, yes, this is one of those posts where a yuppie lady learns something about another area of life from doing yoga.

I’d spent so long fine-tuning my first manuscript that I forgot what it was like to have those messy, raw, early pages that don’t go in order or make sense as a full narrative.

And it stumped me. I didn’t trust my instincts. I didn’t like looking at half-finished scenes with characters I hadn’t figured out yet. Everything seemed not good enough compared to what I’d previously created, and so I didn’t want to write. At 40,000 words – approximately two-thirds of the way to a complete first draft, I just stopped. For three weeks.

I’ve also been dealing with some hip and knee pain caused by a combination of genetic factors and overexercising. I used to push myself as hard as I could in a workout to prove how strong I was. Now, it’s a big deal just to feel pain-free. I go slower. I use a smaller range of motion. I am more careful.

I went to yoga for the first time in months. I’d been nervous because now that I know my body’s limitations, I didn’t want to fall back into that overachiever habit of pushing myself further than I could go and exacerbating my injuries.

So I went to a basics class.

I used to go to heated vinyasa classes that moved quickly through the poses, where I felt like I was pushing myself athletically as well as mentally, leaving dripping with sweat.

In this class, we took our time. We focused on one or two key concepts, like using a strap on our shoulders to help them lower down instead of being hunched up. Afterwards, I felt as good as I used to after a difficult vinyasa class. It wasn’t necessarily easier to focus on doing less. And my needs had changed, at least for where I’m at right now.

I’m using the same “back to basics” approach with my draft. Instead of judging myself against what I’ve done in the past, I am sticking with doing what I can now. Writing, even if it’s not perfect. Giving myself something to work with instead of being frustrated that it’s not visibly improving fast enough. Stretching myself, even if it’s not at my full capacity yet. It’s not a race or a competition. It’s just doing the best I can.

Strength will come through working those muscles, even if it’s slower or different than it was before. And by being gentle and kind to my mind and body.