How Do You Get Physical With Your Writing?

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 According to Natalie Goldberg, writers have good figures and I want one!

Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down The Bones, was recommended years ago by Cindy BeMent, friend, writer and blogger at Once Upon a Loaf. Natalie’s book has been my friend ever since. It’s one of those books I keep close by so I can reach for it when my writing tastes like stale bread (unlike Cindy’s at Once Upon a Loaf). I smell its’ pages, pick a chapter (they’re all short) and focus on the lesson of that chapter. Reading this book has never failed to plunge my soul deeper into the minds of my characters so I feel, hear, smell and see their thoughts.

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In Natalie’s chapter, Writers Have Good Figures, she says, “What people don’t realize is that writing is physical. It has to do with sight, smell, taste, feeling, with everything being alive and activated.”

Natalie says, “By not stopping you’ll physically break through your mental resistances and cut through the concept that writing is just about ideas and thinking. You are physically engaged with the pen, and your hand, connected to your arm, is pouring out the record of your senses. There is no separation between the mind and body; therefore, you can break through the mind barriers to writing through the physical act of writing, just as you can believe with your mind that that your hand won’t stop at the wood, so you can break a board in karate.”

I get it. If I stop every few sentences to add a comma, admire a phrase or add an action verb how can I stay focused on telling the story? Those interruptions will slow down the flow and diminish the energy which in turn will make my readers, well, I won’t have any readers.

This isn’t easy for me. I’m one of the worst offenders. I stop all the time to reread my work and chop, chop, chop before the story is finished. Heck, I cheat in my work out routine, too. I stop before the pain, fudge my repetitions and drool over the bag of chips in the pantry. But this year my goal is to let my writing energy flow without interruptions and hopefully I won’t feel the pain in making my daily quota, and when I succeed I’m going to taste those chips in the pantry.

Natalie says that no matter how fat, thin, or flabby, writers have good figures because they’re always working out. “They are in tune, toned up, in rhythm with the hills, the highway, and can go for long stretches and many miles of paper. They move with grace in and out of many worlds.”

I believe her. I’m working toward that good figure right now. I’m headed for the hills swaying in rhythm to Jim Brickman’s song, “Devotion.” As I plod along to another world, my fingers aren’t going to stop until I get there. So, the next time you see me, will you compliment me on my good writing figure?

What do you do when you’re tempted to go back and edit your prose before you complete the novel?

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  1. Fun, & I’m often tempted to do just that, & in fact, often succumb–but the principle of solid forward motion is certainly correct. I notice that when I’m extremely involved in phone calls, I get up and pace around. It won’t hurt for more of my writing to have intense fast-paced pacing as it hurtles on through especially most crucial events.

  2. Hi Dee —
    I just read your post at Ponderers this morning! Well done. I stumbled upon it at Pat’s site on the FRASIER.
    Anyway, I pace when I’m on the phone too! What’s that about? I always do that. Maybe we should try one of those machines we talk into that automatically writes our script so we could pace while we write. It would definitely be more physical and we’d probably burn more calories. Ha!
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting today. I hope you’re having an awesome writing week!

    • HI MIchelle, usually I’m most tempted to stop and edit before the story’s complete if I’ve been away from it for a while, something that happens far to freqently. So, I re-read the last 20 to 30 pages, get back into the story, not the mood music, mistakes, word choice, ect, the story, then, I start thinking, oh yeah this would happen next and he’d say this, she’d do that, ect.


      • Hi Max-
        I have the same problem and typically do what you do too. It helps to get back into the head of my character.

        Here’s another idea: Make yourself stop writing when you’re in the middle of a scene and you know where the story is going. That way you can’t wait to get back to finishing the scene. It keeps me from procrastinating too. Ha!


  3. I have the same problem Michelle! I stop and edit and read and re-read and edit EVERY SENTENCE. What really helped my crack (not break, I’m not there yet) the habit, was NaNoWriMo. I simply didn’t have time to fuss over word choice and sentence structure, I had to get the words out of my head and onto the ‘paper’ or I’d miss my deadline. But it’s HARD, isn’t it.

    If you’re really interested in pacing while you write try Dragon Dictation, it types your words as you speak them!

    Great post, Michelle, as usual! 🙂

    • Ewww, Dragon Dictation? I need to check it out. You know all the cool gadgets, don’t you?
      Thanks, Pat!

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