Our Bodies and Writing (by Jon)
I want to make this short; we are all busy writers trying to make beautiful writing, and we know you are too, which means that we don’t always have time to write blog posts (or read them for that matter). So I’ll get to my point:
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.
In a moment of frustration and passion for my writing I vented about the loneliness that
has followed me since completing grad school. Just when I thought I wasn’t being completely heard (because let’s face it, I could go on about writing for days and bore a person not interested in the subject) I received this little gem as a gift.
Turns out I was not only heard, but listened to and this book has been just what I needed.
“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”
Kleon reminds his readers that it isn’t just about writing or painting or drawing, it is about the creativity. Creating is not necessarily about being original. As stated in the title, creativity comes from all over, including “stealing” from everyone and everything around you and making it your own.
The book is organized in just that fashion, a bit like a journal with things stolen from others. There are drawings, quotes, pictures etc. It is a collage of Kleon’s writing mixed with what he has picked up on his writing journey. The chapters are short, yet insightful and full of things that an artist may already know but needs to be reminded of from time to time. The book is small and perfect for a coffee table. It’s more of a tangible reminder to be creative rather than a book you read and then place onto a bookshelf. Since I have had this book it has been thrown in my bag, brought to work, rested on my night stand, laid on my couch and tossed around in my car.
Chapter five is one of my favorite reminders: Side Projects And Hobbies Are Important. Within this chapter there is a section called Practice Productive Procrastination. Kleon advises his readers to do other things, to “bounce between” different projects. I have found this beneficial as of late. My notebook sits around the house while I practice the guitar, water my plants, make homemade candles, make coasters, fix jewelry and all the while I am thinking about the new character in the story I am writing. If something new pops into my head, I write it down and then carry on with what I am doing. I also steal from some of the other things I am working on and incorporate them into my work. This comes into play when sitting and writing is just not flowing the way I want it to.
Kleon’s suggestions are easy to incorporate into your life, not mention the book is a quick read. I chose to savor it, read a little at a time, but it can easily be read in a day. Which is nice if you need a distraction or rather, a procrastination from your work. I could go on about this book, but it is short and I don’t want to give it all away and ruin your experience. My suggestion is that you go pick up a copy, spend a day reading it and then go be creative.
Check out Kleon's website: http://austinkleon.com/