Back when I hosted my blog under a different title, Where You Wish Upon A Star, I used to try and post a writing topic each Wednesday as a part of a series called Writer’s Wednesday. More often than not, I wrote about things related to writing that I was going through, thinking of or was inspired by something I had recently read or saw. Even more so though, I love learning or even just reading new things on writing from the authors themselves, especially from women who write in my favorite genre, chick lit. Like the genre itself, topics on writing are so varied and limitless, the resources and ideas to pull from go on forever. For this first edition of Writer’s Wednesday at Lip Gloss & Literature, I’ve chosen an article by a new author, Rain Mitchell who, like many, incorporates much of herself into her writing and has been so willing to share herself with readers as shown here in this article she wrote reflecting on the hard work, time and effort she put into her first novel, Tales from the Yoga Studio.
By Rain Mitchell,
Author of Tales from the Yoga Studio
I spent pretty much all of last winter huddled over a desk in my local public library writing the first draft of my novel, Tales from the Yoga Studio. When that was done, I went back to page one and rewrote every word of it. And just to clarify, by "pretty much all of last winter," I mean every day of it. Sundays included. Month after month, I hit the library as soon as it opened, and usually left around six or seven o'clock at night.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not a workaholic, and I never have been. (I wish!) The truth is, I was so involved in the lives of the characters, I just couldn't wait to sit down, open my laptop, and figure out what was going to happen to them next. It was weirdly atypical of me to be able to sustain the feverish routine.
When I completed the last page of the final draft, I felt an enormous sense of relief and happiness. Two days later, my whole body collapsed. I don't think I've ever felt so exhausted and drained, and as icing on the cake, I got a sinus infection. Whenever I come to the end of what feels like a Herculean task to me, I get sick. Not in the middle, but as soon as I stop.
Given the topic of my novel, it's probably no surprise that I do my share of yoga and have for many years. One thing I had been noticing for months is that most studios I visited were advertising a "Spring Cleanse," a kind of fast that supposedly rids your body of all those miserable-sounding "toxins" and leaves you with glowing skin and boundless energy.
If you do even a little bit of yoga, you quickly become conversant in the language of "toxins." I've always been skeptical of the whole discussion, mostly because it seems so vague. What toxins specifically? And if they're so terrible, is doing a headstand really going to rid your body of them? Going into a twist will "wring out your liver?" Tell that to Amy Winehouse.
But at that exhausted post-book moment last spring, nothing sounded better to me than somehow giving my body a chance at a fresh start. I saw the cleanse mostly as a symbolic gesture, a way to end one period of my life and welcome in the next.
To that end, I sent a check for $150 dollars to a local yoga studio and enrolled myself in their one-week spring cleanse. A few days later, I was emailed a packet of information about what was expected of me. The essence of it was this: seven days of nothing but fruits and vegetables. No coffee, no black tea, no salt, no sugar, no dairy, and no prepared food of any kind. No wheat, no condiments. A little millet and a bit of quinoa, but that was it. No bread! No cookies! Three support group meetings and voila -- cleansed!
I'd been flirting with vegetarianism and health foods for long enough to believe that this was going to be pretty easy for me. It was different, but not that different from my usual diet. I'm not a Big Mac kind of person and never have been.
I went to Whole Foods and stocked up on as much organic produce as I could carry. I dug out my blender and borrowed a friend's vegetable juicer. Ready, set, go. By five pm on the first day, I was feeling great. Energetic, light, and healthy. I had a big fruit salad for dinner and went to a friend's reading at a bookstore. I had this whole thing under control.
Somewhere in the middle of my friend's question and answer period, I started getting a headache. Caffeine withdrawal, I figured. No big deal, especially since I only drank three or four cups a day. How bad could it be?
By the end of the reading, I had trouble holding my head up. Somehow or other I was able to drive home, but by the time I walked in the front door, the pain in my head was so bad, I started to throw up. After an hour of that, I crawled into bed. Tomorrow I'd feel better, I was sure.
Wrong again. The next day, I had such a bad headache, I couldn't open the curtains. On top of that, my muscles ached, and I felt as if I had a fever. I called the cleanse organizer, and she told me I was having caffeine withdrawal and on top of that was obviously (you guessed it) "releasing a lot of toxins." I would have made myself a cup of coffee, but I was so sick, I couldn't do anything but go back to bed with a wet facecloth on my forehead.
Later in the day, a friend called to ask how I was doing, and when I told her, she said, "This is ridiculous, Rain. If you don't feel better tomorrow, I'm coming over there and getting some coffee and bagels into you."
Miraculously, I did feel better the next day. Still shaky and achy, but better. I went to one of the support group meetings and learned that several other people were experiencing a milder version of the same symptoms. It was helpful to hear that. Misery really does love company, I guess.
The highlight of the meeting, at least from a comic point of view, was when the group leader lay down on the floor and demonstrated (a sort of pantomime, thankfully) the proper way to give yourself an enema. Since this was the first day in a while my digestive system had felt halfway normal, I decided to skip that option, thank you very much.
By the fifth day, the headaches had subsided, and I was starting to feel energetic enough to resume my usual routine. I found myself heading back to Whole Foods and buying all kinds of fruit I rarely purchase -- mangos, coconuts, papayas, and fresh figs. The amazing thing to me was how intense all the flavors were and how good almost everything I ate tasted. Fresh, juicy, and clean. I didn't miss bread, dairy, or sugar. And having gotten over my horrible withdrawal from caffeine, even the thought of drinking coffee made me cringe. When I walked past a Starbuck's, I got a little queasy. I went to two work-related parties that week, and wasn't even tempted by the trays of cheese and greasy hors d'oeuvres.
I'm not a cynical person, but I've always tried to maintain a healthy amount of doubt and ironic distance. As a writer, I consider myself a satirist. I went into the cleanse thinking it would be interesting mainly as a metaphor, but doubting the whole process. Almost one year later, I still haven't had coffee or dairy. And believe me, I'd be embarrassed to say how much money I've spent on blue cheeses over the years. I eat about 80% less bread than I used to and about 90% more fresh fruit. Breakfast everyday is a tall glass of freshly juiced kale and carrots and a bunch of other veggies things that taste a lot better than they sound.
I won't say I never get sick anymore, but I have noticed that when I've gotten a cold, it's lasted only a day or two. I'm not sure I have the kind of laser focus a lot of people describe, but it's true that I have more energy and a greater capacity to work my way through difficult tasks. I'm now writing the second book in the Tales from the Yoga Studio series, and while I'm finding it as much work as the first, I am far less stressed out and exhausted by the process.
Last April, on the final day of the cleanse, I met up with a friend I hadn't seen in quite a while. We went to a movie and then out for (herbal) tea. She looked at me closely and said, "Your eyes look really bright. Are you taking vitamins or something?"
I assured her I wasn't. I bit my tongue and told myself that I didn't want to sound like all those people who'd made me roll my eyes with their vague jargon and unsubstantiated "medical" claims. But finally, I couldn't hold it in: "I think I just got rid of a lot of toxins that had been building up," I said.
"Toxins?" she said. "What are those?"
"I have no idea," I said. "But I'm pretty sure they're gone."
© 2011 Rain Mitchell, author of Tales from the Yoga Studio
Rain Mitchell, author of Tales From the Yoga Studio, began practicing yoga as a teenager and is currently at work on the second novel in the series. Rain's favorite pose is corpse.
Tales from the Yoga Studio: A Novel by Rain Mitchell