Writing as a Full Body Experience

b2ap3_thumbnail_441px-Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour.jpgPhoto courtesy of Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be

Writers learn to work on more than one level. At the same time we’re writing, we’re also reading – we’re both creating and reacting. While my mind keeps track of the story and the character’s progress through a scene, my heart is connected to her mood and my gut is registering tension. All my senses are alert to what her senses would be. (I could add that my hands are typing, but you get the idea.) If I have a character say something that doesn’t suit her state of mind, I get a sense of disconnection which tells me that I have to go back. If the tension flatlines, the first clue is that my stomach has unclenched. To some, this full body approach to writing comes naturally, but it can be an acquired skill. Often I go over a scene numerous times, focusing on three levels in particular.

Next, the gut check: is there tension? Would a reader need to read on? Is there a mystery, a worry, an unfulfilled desire, a conflict, or even just a disquieting imbalance, something that a reader would want to see through? As writers, we must try to anticipate the sensation of reading our work as honestly as we can. To captivate others, we have to captivate ourselves. As you write, is your stomach so tense that the world outside falls away? Or do you find yourself starting to skim? The feedback of your body doesn’t lie. I assign this one to my gut, which is where I actually experience this kind of independent processing. What I’m talking about here, of course, is our identification with our readers.

Last, I return to the mind, which is also where I start. The mind has the biggest job. Character development, dialogue, plot, setting, language, metaphor, the list goes on and on…. Writing is submersive. You have to bring all your talents and faculties to bear. But that is how we can spend so many hours by ourselves at the computer, or with nothing but pen and paper. We carry inside us more than one experience, more than one person. We create a world outside ourselves by expanding the one inside.

For more, please visit ellentmcknight.com.

Comments 2

 
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 18:21

I've often thought how fit, preferably in top form, writers need to be. The practice mines everything we have and there's always a major and unavoidable slump soon after finishing a novel. But I really hadn't thought about the physicality of it in the way you present it here.

An interesting insight!

I've often thought how fit, preferably in top form, writers need to be. The practice mines everything we have and there's always a major and unavoidable slump soon after finishing a novel. But I really hadn't thought about the physicality of it in the way you present it here. An interesting insight!
Ellen T. McKnight on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 18:45

Thanks, Rosy! I've noticed that too, but hadn't considered how it might reflect on the involvement of our bodies in the work, other than the more obvious physicality of all those hours in the chair. An intriguing thought.

Thanks, Rosy! I've noticed that too, but hadn't considered how it might reflect on the involvement of our bodies in the work, other than the more obvious physicality of all those hours in the chair. An intriguing thought.
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