A Mantra for Writers by Marivi Blanco
Last year, my hands staged a revolt against writing. Tingling fingertips and swollen knuckles often roused me from the deepest sleep and I would stare at my stiff digits, wondering if I’d sprouted lobster claws overnight. My doctor said it was carpal tunnel syndrome, borne of too many hours of typing out the novel. I couldn’t afford the recommended weekly acupuncture treatments, and taking time off from writing was not an option, so I signed up for the new student promo at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga – two weeks of unlimited classes.
Stretched out in corpse pose at the close of that first class convinced me that yoga was the way to go. Beyond the serene physicality of sun salutations, following directions offered a delicious opportunity to turn control over to someone else. That’s when I realized writers need periodic breaks from playing God: who knew manipulating characters and composing scenes was so exhausting? What a relief to have someone tell me what to do for a change.
Soon I was doing yoga five days a week. The carpal tunnel pain dissipated and my posture improved, but over time another, totally unexpected benefit came to light: yoga helped me write better.
Whenever a plot knot blocked the writing, I would stop and take a yoga break. The meditative hour replenished the creative juices and a solution to the creative puzzle invariably surfaced as I walked home from vinyassa class.
Taking it one step further, I joined a two-day vegetarian yoga retreat at a camp in Descanso last spring. One of the weekend’s highlights was a silent meditation hike. Instead of talking, our retreat leader instructed us to invent a short personal mantra, mentally chanting one word for each step taken, over and over till we returned to the bottom of the hill.
Alas, mental mantras turned out not to be my strongest suit.
Marching uphill my mental mantra went: I’m writing a great novel. Tramping downhill it devolved into I’m eating the pork belly. Same cadence, different dream.
Feeling very Kung Fu Panda, I kept on with my practice and returned to Descanso that fall for a second retreat. This time we learned to make vision boards that would help ‘manifest’ our goals. By then I was working on the novel’s final chapters, so I manifested a finished manuscript, literary representation, a publishing contract… and just for the heck of it, Oprah’s Book Club.
Despite my initial skepticism, manifesting turned out to be a powerful tool. Shortly before Christmas the novel was done; by February a literary agent signed me on and in April, Penguin came through with a book deal.
I can’t get on anyone’s book club till the novel sees print, but practicing yoga, meditating and manifesting will no doubt help me survive the revision process. Did I eat the pork belly? Of course. All I have to do now is get Oprah to read my book.
After authoring ten books for children, Marivi Soliven Blanco moved on to writing four more books for an adult audience including Suddenly Stateside, a collection of essays on the Filipino diaspora, and Spooky Mo, a collection of feminist horror stories. Her essays and short fiction have been widely anthologized in Philippine textbooks. While her day job as a telephonic interpreter offers constant inspiration for new stories, writing continues to be her primary vocation.