Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Writing Is a Whole Body Sport

I learned to write from the outside in.

I prefer to write from the inside out. I plan what I write, but my plan is basic. Answer two questions: What do I want to say? and Why is that important? Those two questions are enough to focus what I want to say and still leave me the room I need room to
improvise. I need room to figure out how I'll tease out the truth of what I want to say. I like to play with the music of the language, to find the rhythm and mood, and to explore ways to juxtapose images and memories. So I listen to music or I walk while I think about those questions. It helps to try on my thoughts in more than one setting.

As soon as I've answered my questions, I set aside my plan--okay, my notes--don my headphones, and choose the music to match the piece. It’s not unusual for me to be directing a symphony or dancing at my desk while I'm trying to access that one right word, that exact phrase, to convey what I'm trying to say. When dancing doesn't do it, I walk some more. Dancing or walking, physical activity gets my blood pulling the words to my brain more quickly. Keeping the rest of my body busy also helps me focus and set aside my self-consciousness so that I can just get on with the truth telling. I have no tolerance for writer's block. It's not allowed in my office.

In this writing tango, roles change quickly. I lead the music. The music leads me.

Dancing at my keyboard is taking the bypass highway around the metropolitan area of my brain. The words come off the road just a little raw, just a little more human than if I let my head edit them before they were fully-arrived thoughts. The musical bypass underscores the rhythm, the melody, the life in the language.

When I am deeply into writing, I might play the same CD for days and not hear any but one song--the same song--each time it comes up every hour or so. Each time I wonder what happened to the rest of the CD. Then I keep writing, knowing that the work must be going well. Obviously the music is leading me where I need to go. It's something close to driving home on a such a magnificent fall afternoon that you can't remember how you got there.

I'm listening to music and dancing in my chair right now.
I don't need to run marathons. For me, writing is a whole body sport.

—me strauss Letting me be


iamnasra said...

I have a very strange theory; writing is music or a song that begins with the first word. Not necessarily plan what I want to say. I will recite the first word and make it be a chorus and repeat it so my ears can hear it.. then I let the magic happen where flow of more words will create it self…God’s gift to me…I do not know when it happens but it happens. The gift of god is presented to me in a time Im so shut away from my reality if it was a blackout …

Does it make sense to you ???

ME Strauss said...

That makes total and beautiful sense to me. Writing is putting down the music of the language. It's best heard without editing. I think you are lucky to have such a gift. Many writers write from their subconscious like that. I do it with some things. My most beautiful writing has come from that way. Yes, it makes perfect sense to me.