Recently I decided to venture from this blog and submit an article to an online magazine. It was a bit of an experiment to send “Why I Do Feldenkrais Instead of Yoga” to Elephant Journal, a yoga-centric publication whose staff, readers and contributors includes tons of yogis (both committed and disgruntled). Indeed, when I practiced yoga, I avidly devoured many articles in that very journal, amazed if not shocked by the boldness of its writers who shared their truth or spilled their guts, sometimes eloquently, other times less so. For a long time I toyed with the idea of submitting a piece, but something held me back. I wasn’t sure if it was fear of exposure or if I wanted to first find a more mainstream venue for my writing, one whose format was a bit less visually cluttered and whose quality was more consistent. After moving to Boulder, I met an excellent writer who told me that her articles in Elephant Journal had been seen by thousands, if not tens of thousands. Was I being a writerly snob by not submitting, and making my ideas of perfect into the enemy of the “perfectly good”? I chewed on that for a time. My desires to expand my reach and share Feldenkrais with a demographic that might not know much about it eventually nudged me into submitting. During my many years doing yoga, the F-word had never appeared on my radar. I wondered if I might attract new readers and, possibly, experience the phenomenon of going viral.
Within a few days, I learned that my article would be published the following week. Last Wednesday, the post went live. The initial version had glitches: the accompanying photos didn’t show up and the links to my blog and social media presences, tools for audience building (the main payoff for writing for free), weren’t there. A wave of irritation overwhelmed me. I couldn’t understand why the editors had published it with these problems. I wondered if I should have trusted my original instincts to not submit. After the irritation subsided a bit, I e-mailed the journal about the errors and, upon not receiving a reply for a few hours, I tried to calmly ponder the spiritual lessons of the situation. I became acutely aware of just how difficult it is for me to cede control of critical details that can make the difference between an article going splat or flying high. But if I wanted to write for a larger audience, I would need to learn how to navigate the uncertainty and the loss of control without triggering an overwhelming discharge of fight-or-flight chemicals. At some point, I mustered a rueful chuckle at the irony of twisting myself into knots over an article about Feldenkrais and yoga. Couldn’t I just breathe through the tension and, as I wrote recently, live lightly? But I was too revved up for that to succeed. Perhaps my first foray out of the nest of my blog was more important than I cared to admit, and my strong reaction informed me that I should not attempt to dampen, override or bypass it but rather let it run its course. That felt more true and I gave myself permission to rant privately.
The journal staff eventually resolved the problem and graciously apologized. Faith and good humor restored, I posted the link in a Facebook forum for Feldenkrais practitioners and students around the world, a kind of virtual village. I asked people to share it if they enjoyed it, and explained that the more hits the article got, the more likely Elephant Journal would feature it on their home page, generating more visibility. For a community that longs to see “Feldenkrais” in the headlines, I hoped that a few people in that group would step up. The response floored me. In less than 24 hours, the article had received more than 100 “likes”, been shared 200 times and received more than 2,000 views from around the world, quickly placing it in the “popular” section of Elephant’s website. Folks asked permission to translate it into Italian and Dutch. Others posted the link on their blogs and websites. Comments, compliments (my favorite? “Brilliant”), thank you’s, cheers and friend requests flowed my way. A few people even reached out by telephone, and one practitioner who was visiting Boulder suggested we get together (we did). That so many showed up with such enthusiasm made it seem as if I were being buoyed by waves of love and gratitude from around the planet. Two days later, someone else posted my article in the same Facebook group, unaware either that I was a member or that a member had written it. As a friend pointed out, it had come full circle. My inner bean counter would now like to inform you that four days after publication the article has been viewed 6,900+ times and shared 440+ times. While I’m aware that for some writers those statistics might represent a slow day, they were unprecedented for me given the sliver, if not a crevice, that my blog occupies and the niche focus of my article. I learned that it really does take a village, even if the villagers are scattered across continents, to help a post go viral. More importantly, I was glad to discover that I had wandered into a village I could see myself hanging out in for a good while, if not a very long time.