Writing with the body


I’m about 15,000 words in to a new novel (a novel I expect to be in the neighbourhood of 90,000 words when it’s done). It’s been a hard slog. I’m trying to write 1,000 words a day, but I keep getting hung up on plot elements I thought I had figured out, but hadn’t, not really. This after outlining six ways to Sunday.

I just couldn’t figure out a major character motivation. I was feeling frustrated.

I was also feeling blobby, since I haven’t been getting much exercise lately. Even by my shabby standards of what constitutes “much exercise.”

So today at work, I took a half-hour, went up to the gym, and did a little yoga.

The moment I got into lotus-shoulderstand (the pose I demonstrate in the photo at left — yes, that’s me) the knot untangled and the problem became clear.

I don’t believe in prana in any literal, physiological way. It’s a useful concept, and true on a certain level. I don’t think there’s anything mystical or ineffable about the way physical activity, such as yoga, can help the mind. But there is a reason so many writers say they write best after (or during) a walk. The mind gets into ruts, just as the body does, and sometimes those ruts run parallel. Our habits of frowning, or slouching, or what-have-you, are connected to the habits of anxiety or misanthropy or what-have-you. And if we’ve been thinking ourselves into a tiny knot of frustration, sometimes uncurling the body, or flipping it over, can shake loose a new perspective.

So now I have a way forward for this evening’s novel-drafting. And I don’t feel quite so blobby.

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