How I Learned to Live and Write with Intention

In November 2010, I hosted a speed networking event at the Galway Hooker in NYC, a bar just a few blocks south of where I used to work full-time for an academic book publisher.* The event was a shot-in-the-dark idea I had for promoting my brand new career coaching business… one idea among many. I [...]

Freelancing and Yoga Go Together Like… Nutella and Pound Cake

I can't even do the pose pictured on my shirt without falling over.

Those of you who have been reading Freelancedom for awhile may have noticed a shift in tone recently.

Part of this has been due to a shift in focus, and in changing goals. Part of it has been due to the emotional/mental shift that comes with improved work/life balance, and with more consistent income (alleluia!).

But a big part of that shift has come from the fact that I now hit up my local yoga studio four to five days a week.

Is that crazy? Maybe. But I’ve come to realize that freelancing and yoga go together like Nutella and pound cake.

Let me explain. When I go to my morning and lunchtime yoga classes, I’m simultaneously pumped up for productivity and made more relaxed despite freelance-related stress. When I go to my evening class, focusing on the poses and meditating in savasana help me turn off my brain before bedtime. Yoga also helps me stretch out the muscles that perpetually ache after hours at the computer. And I’m healthier: mentally and physically. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good without the help of mood-stabilizing medication.

In fact, yoga has become such a big part of my life that I plan on entering a teacher training program in January 2013. Yoga won’t supplant writing and editing and coaching and singing, but it will become a big part of the mix.

But I know you came here to talk writing. And entrepreneurship. And the freelance life.

Still, I feel that there are a lot of writer-yogis out there, so I thought you might find this interesting.

Basically, to give the rest of you non-yogis a break, I’ve created a Tumblr on which I will now gush about everything yoga. It’s called OMmygod, and I think it’s OMazing (stop rolling your eyes).

Interesting, yoga-related links? Got it.

Fun, funny, and just-plain amazing yoga comics, photos, and videos? You bet.

A picture of me in headstand? Yes. I’ve allowed that to go out into the world.

Also, I’ve been kicking around the idea of planning a yoga/writing retreat for word nerds. Would any of you be interested in that? Let me know, and we can chat about making it the retreat you’ve been dreaming of.

Anyways. Yoga has changed my mindset, and I’ll continue bringing that new sensibility to my Freelancedom posts. I hope you don’t mind. But with this new outlet, I’m hoping I can keep things — dare I say it? — balanced.

How has your freelance focus shifted over the past few years?

Related: Inch By Inch: How Small Steps Lead to Big Success, You’re Doing Great. You Should Give Thanks and Chill the Eff Out., How Choosing the More Difficult Path Leads to Awesomeness (and a Cuter Butt)

Want Freelance Success? Watch Your Health

At the beginning of June, I started ghostwriting an ebook with a very aggressive timeline. I didn’t take on many other projects during that time, aside from a blog post here and there, and some copyediting work. I also didn’t take breaks for lunch. I stopped going on my afternoon walks. My topless living room yoga sessions became far less regular. And I ate a lot of takeout Chinese.

Finishing that project (the last of the edits were completed in mid-August) was like coming up for air. It was freeing, but I also felt burnt out and unmotivated. I lost all momentum. For weeks, I did the bare minimum, telling myself I’d get back in the saddle after “that trip” or “that holiday weekend.” But I never did.

Then I started making yoga a bigger part of my life* and, suddenly, I was able to jump into new coaching work, start singing funerals again, and write a book proposal. Magic? Not quite.

Yesterday, I had a free wellness coaching session with Linda Formichelli. I had previously only known Linda as a freelance guru and writing coach, but I was intrigued when she announced the launch of HappyFit Coaching. To me, it made sense to see her expand her business to include health and wellness. Why? Because incorporating exercise and other positive health practices into your work day is about much more than achieving optimal work/life balance.

In chatting with Linda about my love affair with yoga, I admitted to her that, aside from making me feel stronger, more balanced, and more toned (you should check out my ass), yoga has also:

  • helped me wake up in the morning, making the transition from sleep to work a lot less excruciating.
  • given me a much-needed break in the middle of the day, allowing me to come back to the computer screen feeling refreshed and ready to kick some ass.
  • stretched me out, which is great when you experience chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain from being hunched over your computer for the majority of your existence.
  • quieted my mind, which is nice when you’re stressing the eff out over late-paying clients, scope creep, deadlines, and life in general.
  • helped me get to sleep at night, which was previously impossible due to my inability to turn my brain off.

In short, being healthier made me a lot more productive.

Wouldn’t you like some of that?

Your own healthy habits don’t have to include yoga, but they should include activities that invigorate you, stretch you out, and give you an endorphin high. You should also eat nutritious meals (the pre-cooked chicken wings at the supermarket don’t count), so that you feel less horrifically sluggish, and you should make sleep a bigger priority. No more all-nighters, yo!

I’m not a health professional (which would be obvious if you ever secretly observed me), but I can point you toward some of the things that have inspired me to lead a healthier life. French Women Don’t Get Fat, for example, taught me a lot about mindful eating. And The Flex Diet – which isn’t actually a diet — provided me with lots of suggestions for eating healthier and enjoying my workouts.

And if you can’t afford a gym or studio membership, no worries. I rent belly dancing, hoop dancing, and yoga DVDs from Netflix all the damn time. Oh. And walking is free. (Don’t ask me to run, though. I don’t go above a power walk.)

Have you been giving your health short shrift? Do you think it may be negatively impacting your work? What one health-related change can you make to your day in order to boost productivity?

*Why yes, I AM obnoxiously obsessed with yoga lately. I”m sorry. You’re gong to have to deal with it. I’l try to mix up the yoga mentions with photos of my cats.

Related: How to Work from Home Without Losing Your Mind, Better Than Xanax

Inch By Inch: How Small Steps Lead To Big Success

Earlier this week, I joined a yoga studio just two minutes from my condo, and started trying out different classes. I had been using Shiva Rea and Rodney Yee DVDs at home, but I wanted to mix things up, and I wanted someone who could tell me when my elbows were pointed in the wrong direction, and who could correct my stance. I wanted someone who could adjust my pose the one iota it needed to be perfect. I wanted to achieve yoga success.

Yesterday afternoon, the instructor had us do headstands. When I admitted I hadn’t done one since I was a toddler, he rubbed his hands together with glee and had me move my yoga mat up against the wall. Then, he walked me through the setup for the position and watched as I struggled to get my legs up above my head.

“Just one more inch,” he said as I flailed about. After a few moments, I let out a surprised “Oh!” as my feet touched the wall.

I left the class feeling exhilarated by how easy it had been to do that headstand. How close I was without even knowing it.

When I got home, there was more good news in my inbox. Thanks to a quick email nudge I’d sent the week before, a lit agent that a client of mine had introduced me to via email wanted to set up a time to chat about my book proposal.

I don’t know what will come of that chat, but I feel similar to how I felt when I was attempting that headstand: So close… close enough for my feet to touch the wall.

Sometimes, people look at my business and feel frustrated that they’re not where I’m at in my writing career. The thing is, it took me over 10 years to get here, and I’m still not even where I want to be. I’m still moving forward. Inch by inch.

It took a lot of self-help books to get here. A lot of continuing education classes and post-college internships, and a lot of query letters. It took a lot of online and in-person networking and a lot of informational interviews. It took full-time and permalance jobs… small and large assignments.

It took a heckuva lot of one-sentence followup emails.

Every year, I look back and am proud of the things I’ve accomplished. But then I look forward and see how close I am to achieving the next big thing. I agonize over a query letter. I send another followup email. I attend an event. I move forward an inch.

For the longest time, I felt I wasn’t going anywhere. It felt as if my wheels were spinning. Today, I turned 31. I can see my progress. I’m excited for what’s next.

How many small steps have you taken this week to move forward that next inch?

What have you already accomplished?

What are you most proud of?

Related: News Flash: Both Marriage and Freelancing Are Hard, Nothing To Do with Luck, Bring in New Projects Without Lifting a Finger