Writing is physical. We write with our minds, yes, but also with our bodies. We recall pain, emotions, detail – through the body. When we feel desire – we feel it in the body. Hunger, in the body. But this is true for sadness, for gladness, for anger, for hope. Feelings reside in the body.
We invoke the body in our writing, and to do that, we need to be present in the body.
Sometimes, writers forget about the body and try to live in the head. Try to evoke and imagine characters without getting physically engaged, try to dredge up story and scene and sentence while static.
So today, move the body. Put music on while you’re writing, and wriggle as you type.
Or get your old roller skates out and go for a spin. Find your nearest body of water and put your head under, dive in. Wave your arms, make swan wings from them. Or simply stretch. You can go the full yoga pose, or simply tilt your head to the side and feel the stretch in your neck.
I’m aware that this sounds less like writing advice and more like Aunty Kathryn’s Tips for Wholesome Living. Especially when I add (in a chirpy, Miss Jean Brodie voice) ‘sluggish body, sluggish mind children!’
But you will, I promise you, feel more freedom with your words if you can live a little more freely in the vessel of your body. You will connect more with your characters – whether imagined or remembered – if you can enter them through physical recall.
And you will need physical stamina for the next week’s practice of staying up all night drinking ten cups of coffee. (I’m joking. Please don’t do that.)
More precisely, today I would love you to step into someone else’s shoes and take a walk in them. An actual walk. So, that might be a character you are thinking about. It might be the person you observed yesterday. Perhaps it’s your grandmother, or your father, or your sister, or yourself as a child. Choose the person or character. Now, take a walk as though you are that person.
Depending on your circumstances, you might walk around your block. Or catch the train to another part of town and walk some streets there. Perhaps it’s a coastal walk, or a walk through nature. If you can, connect the location with what you know or imagine about this person.
What do they notice? What draws that person’s eye? Are they appalled by the rubbish? Do they pick it up and keep it? Do they gather flowers or feathers? Do they call into cafes or shops? Do their legs or backs hurt? Enjoy being in the skin of the other – even if that other is you at a different time. This is the great and beautiful privilege of the imagination. We can be wherever we like, and we can be whoever we want.
Today’s prompt is…
The smell of lemons…