Friday, January 22, 2010

Get Physical

It’s January, which means it’s time to make new resolutions. Here’s mine: I’m going to get physical. That’s right. I’m going to get physical with my writing because 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 a writing buddy and it’s 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. 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.

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.”

I’ve heard many writing teachers recommend to get the story down first without stopping and then go back to edit the entire piece, bit by bit.

Here’s what 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.”

Now 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?
Michelle Weidenbenner


  1. Michelle, what a great post! It totally made my morning to read it. In fact, I think I will go work out right now. My typing fingers need to build endurance.

  2. Great post, Michelle. I love that book and I'm going to get it out when I get home and review it.

  3. I love that book.
    Your post was a great reminder to me to write, write, write during that first rough draft.

  4. I'm guilty of this too, stopping to read over and fix my work - all the time! I have gotten a little better, and plan on working on this more in 2010.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  5. I loved your post, Michelle. Welcome to the Indiana group!