Writing is a bodily experience.
Each letter, word, sentence, and paragraph, all the way through the entire length of your poem, story, or book, you are making choices. We all know that. Everything in art is choice, and some artists are better at making choices than others. But what many of us forget is that each choice is a physical one.
Whether you write by hand or on a typewriter, or you prefer laptops and tablets, each letter and punctuation mark is a physical choice; a somatic movement to make that choice.
I write by typewriter—my handwriting is illegible and when I get on the computer I lose myself to cat videos and silly games. I need a typewriter to get any work done at all. But what I love most about it is that I have to work for each letter and word. It’s not a simple tapping of a computer keyboard or tablet screen, I have to mean every single letter I choose. All the muscles in my hands and arms and shoulders get a good workout typing. Writing becomes an exercise for me. It also slows me down, keeps me from outrunning the story with words. It is because of my typewriter that I am able to sit and write 1000-1500 words in one sitting: I can’t go back and erase what I’ve written; once I start a word or sentence, I can’t restart it, I’m stuck with that thought and I must finish it, even if it’s terrible; I get more on the page because all I can do is move forward. It’s what works for me.
You have to find what works for you.
But here’s the problem: more often than not, we forget that our bodies are part of our writing. The world is experienced through senses, a measly five senses to boot. In order for us to recreate those senses, to create scenes and characters that are believable, we need to experience the world through our own senses. We need to touch things, smell things, taste things, see things, and hear things. Our bodies give us the understanding we need to select the right words for those experiences; then through our bodies those words find themselves on the page/screen.
Without our bodies, we cannot express anything. Thoughts and ideas only exist in our bodies, and can only be communicated through our bodies. It’s why we write. It’s why we do anything.
So when you’re writing this next week or so, think about your body. What is it telling you? Where do your muscles lead you? Follow them. Let them tell their stories.