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  • How Your Body Is a Gateway to Your Creative Expression
This blog was featured on 09/27/2017
How Your Body Is a Gateway to Your Creative Expression
Written by
Brooke Warner
September 2017
Written by
Brooke Warner
September 2017

I read a stunning submission this week from one of my students that had all the elements of good storytelling minus one thing: body sensations. I found myself desperately wanting her to describe the sensations that must have been coming up for her as she wrote about what for her was a true-life, horrid event of discovering that her child had been murdered. And although she’s writing memoir, it’s not just memoir that requires us to get into the physical sensations our characters feel. Whether your character is you or a made-up protagonist, body sensations (literally what you or your characters physically feel in reaction to circumstances) help your reader know that what they’re feeling is aligned with what you wanted them to feel when you envisioned or wrote the passage.

Last summer I visited a friend who’s a writer and writing teacher. She explained to me how writing (and by extension any creativity) moves through us like a spiritual force, and how we can tap into that essential creative source through yoga and energy work. I remembered this recently because I’ve returned to acupuncture after a four-year hiatus. I went back due to stress; I figured maybe it could release some of my pent-up anxiety. The first day on the table I felt the chi vibrating me, a sensation of such lightness that when I closed my eyes it felt like my arms were floating. My body hummed. And within three sessions I was feeling more grounded, infinitely more centered and capable, despite my circumstances being exactly the same as they were when I started.

I believe that creative energy pumps through us like a life force, a life source, for that matter. And I also know that writers get stuck. Being a writer requires us to access everything we have. It demands that you stop and listen; that you sometimes relive the very things you would do anything to forget. And whether you’re writing fiction, memoir, poetry, or self-help, it asks you to bring yourself to the page—real, authentic, naked, true. So why should it be a surprise that we stifle our creativity, that we sometimes ignore it, abandon it, submerge it, and even sabotage it?

But here’s something to consider. If you knew your creativity was something inside of you that you could treat, would you do it? If, like chi, it just needed to get unblocked, would you pursue opportunities to make that happen? We live in a culture whose solution to being stuck is medicine, or caffeine, or alcohol. We also live in a culture that throws up every roadblock imaginable to leading a creative life. Although we revere the creative life, it’s not actually valued.

Take a second to feel your body right now. Where do you feel creatively alive? Do you know? Where do you feel creatively stuck? Can you be with your body enough to follow your energy to its source of inspiration or stuckness? Do you feel it in your head? In your heart? In your gut? In your loins?

Body sensations are an emotional legend for our readers, and understanding how we feel as we walk through joy or tragedy is key to relating to those we are trying to reach. Writing body sensations takes real-life practice, though, because if we’re blocked off from our emotions—because we don’t know what they are; or because we’re ignoring them; or because we feel afraid to face them—then we are not feeling. And if we’re not feeling, how can we write with full expression?

I am witnessing more and more that writing with true depth has a push and a pull. It invigorates and enlivens, but it also sucks people dry. I’ve seen people get sick; I’ve seen depression; I’ve seen true fallout—all because of risking to revisit, to tell the truth, to forge forward. Which is why we need to take care of ourselves through the writing process.

If you have enough awareness to know that there’s a certain energy center you might want to start working on this week, here are a few thoughts to kickstart you, or to spur your own better ideas: 

For your head

Sometimes if you’re too much in your head, the best thing to do is to get out. Listen to music and dance. Look at old photographs and allow yourself to be transported to another time and place. Make a collage and allow yourself to lose track of the time.

For your heart

The heart can be easily abandoned or forgotten in the push-push-push environment that is creation for the sake of being prolific. For those of you struggling, create a vision board to remind you why you write. Make a writing bucket list and do something from the list that engages your heart.

For your gut

Acupuncture, folks, does wonders for the gut. Also, try listing other times in your life when you’ve said yes. Because the gut houses our fears, this is an exercise in reminding you of how and where you risked and what the outcome was. Your gut is also the source of your power, health, and deep knowing, so try a two-day cleanse (yes, I mean diet) that’s connected to an intention around your writing: a fresh start; a new beginning; a reset.

For your loins

Sex, yes, an obvious one, or better yet, self-pleasuring. Athletes often talk about the power of sexual release before a big game, but for some reason writers don’t seem to extol the virtues of the Big O quite as often. Also, before a writing session, try sitting in butterfly or sleeping hero or happy baby yoga positions (all pelvis openers), just to get the blood (and creativity) flowing.

In what ways have you been stuck with your writing, and how have you been able to tap into your creativity again?


*This post was originally published in January 2015.

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  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for this, Charlene, and all your great insights in these comments. I have to go back and read Wolf's book. I own it and I only ever was able to dip in. :)

  • Charlene Diane Jones

    REad Naomi Wolf's great work "The Vagina: A Cultural HIstory." She does a clear examination of how women get wet when we are excited by our work, our art, our expression. She also examines the nerves that flow from the base of the pelvis up through the body and join to the head, according to her writing many more of these nerves in women than in men. Personally yes, writing for me when it's good is from my body. It is my cells weeping with release at relinquishing their truth that create the flow and rhythm. I wonder how many bacteria/paramecium contribute to what I think of as my writing?

    When I am unable to write, I stand and breathe. Then I turn on music because dancing has always been the most joyous way for me to ground again, to find my beautiful body. When I want a more concentrated form of cleansing I practice an hour of deep release breathing done to affirmations. Usually once or twice a week and I'm good to go. 

    Writing the past, like my memoirs means feeling again. And again. It is memory work, but the best kind. I agree with you Tanya, feeling my words means knowing my story. 

    I also try to practice bio energetics in the mornings when it's too cold here to go outside, especially hanging head down, relaxed neck, arms swinging and knees bent, toes pointed in, mouth open and breathing. I find this flushes the central nervous system with deep flows of oxygen and energy. 

    And Brooke, thank you. I am knocked out by your truth and the generosity you display...a true speak from the heart.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for your comments, Cate and Taunya!

  • Taunya Richards

    This is a great article. I know that when I write some of my toughest memories down I FEEL the emotions in my body. I've learned to include what I'm feeling along with the words. When I write like this I feel my words are most alive. I can share a story ... but really I want you to FEEL, to KNOW my story. 

    I am discovering that if I get up and energized in the morning I can write.

  • Susan Johnson Hadler

    This is so true.  Thank you, Brooke.  There are times when I need to cut back on everything stimulating for awhile -just look at the sky, watch the birds, do nothing with any purpose - it's like a diet for my mind - and then I can be open to what's alive in me again. 

  • Melinda Gallo

    Thank you for this insightful article, Brooke! As a runner, I have seen how much better my writing flows when I run more.

    Thanks to your article, hopefully other people will see the power that our bodies hold and can therefore release.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks, Kamy. <3

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    I love this. Thank you Brooke.

  • Sally Ketham

    Hi Brooke, I so agree with everything you've written! In fact, I became inspired to write a book just a few months after I began going to acupuncture (although I didn't know the correlation at the time). Now I know that our creativity is housed in our sacral chakra (just below belly button). Meditating on an orange ball of light at the chakra definitely helps. I also 100% believe that creativity is something that flows through us...we are the channels. I think writers get stuck when they start relying too much on their minds and forget that we're just facilitators.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    That's awesome, Fredrika. Any body movement is critical. It's funny how things tend to pile up for me, as if they're in the collective conscience. Right now I'm feeling this body stuff everywhere I go, missing it in my students' writing, noticing an absence. Then I watched American Sniper this week and I thought, wow, what a performance from Bradley Cooper, and how we get to *see* what's going on with his body because he's onscreen,and how we have to create that for our readers on the page. Not an easy task, but important!

  • Fredrika Sprengle

    Great post, Brooke.  Thanks.  You've summed up a lot of what I've been thinking about in the last couple of weeks.  I went for a mountain bike ride Sunday that shook my body and creativity loose and have been writing more easily since.