This is my (Lol)’s friend Charlotte. A few months ago she single-handedly staged this protest at the Tate Modern, which you might have seen in the papers, for Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist who had been detained on ludicrous grounds. More on her amazing stunt here. (nb – that’s a painted sunflower. It’s not all bush.)
When she’s not being a flower-adorned-freedom-fighter, or a charismatic singing teacher, pianist and all round renaissance mentalist, she is a teacher of Laughter Yoga.
Laughter what now?
Laughter Yoga is a new form of relaxation based on the two pronged ‘no-brainer’ that a) laughter is the best medicine (obv) and b) the body knows no physiological difference between pretend laughter and real laughter.
It’s a unique exercise routine that combines laughter exercises with yogic breathing (Pranayama).
Before you do a quick u-ey whilst thinking this blog’s gone all sarongy and tree-hugging, let me explain. It is really very cool.
A typical laughter session includes playfulness, chanting (yes, chanting) and deep breathing and laughter sounds, until they eventually become contagious.
I’ve been to a few of her sessions, and once you get over feeling like a Massive Knob for the first ten minutes, it is lots of fun and very effective at what it sets out to do – clear the mind, relieve you of any stress, and lift your mood. Because as you’d expect, the more pretend laughter you do, the more genuine laughter that follows hot on its heels.
Anyway, the reason I’m writing about all this is that I had a kind of realisation the other day about the creative process that I thought was interesting.
Writing – whether it’s ads or books or screenplays or whatever, can sometimes feel a bit like laughter yoga does at first. Unless you’re just having a really good day, it can often feel totally like you’re faking it. Like, its not real, you’re a fraud and you’re going to get ‘found out’ any minute. And most of all, you just feel like a bit of a knob.
Maybe I’m alone in this but when I’m thinking up characters, to begin with they’re just arbitrary names or silly facades – they don’t seem real. For three years the book I’ve been writing has felt a bit like that, like – Er, who cares? surely this is all just a load of made-up bollocks?!
But the weird thing is, now that I’ve written most of the book, the more the characters have stopped being shadowy, cardboard cutouts, and they’ve actually taken on a form of their own. Now when I’m writing dialogue, it’s like they’re telling me what to write. They’re each battling over the lines of dialogue. Pick me for this line, says Lauren, I’m much more likely to say that than Olivia! Or, to bring it back to Advertising, sometimes when we’ve been writing a script so long, half way through the process, something kicks in, there’s a tipping point and it begins to ‘write itself.’
Suffice to say that finally, after three years of writing absolute drivel, I’m starting to believe in the world these weird made up characters are inhabiting. (Whether anyone else will, well, that’s something altogether different that I can only hope for.)
Anyway, it’s exactly like that with Laughter Yoga. You trick your mind and body and soul into thinking you’re laughing. And then before you know it, you really are.
In more ways than one, writing can sometimes feel like a massive game of Let’s Pretend.