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Write From the Body

Posted on Wed, Mar 11 2015 9:00 am by Cheryl Pallant


Whether you’re looking for new material or wanting to further what’s already written, write from the body. Write from the felt, bodily self, from the often ignored sensations and fleeting images. In tuning into ourselves mindfully, somatically, the energy of the body is activated along with a naturally creative and generative flow.

Writing mindfully, somatically, the breath shifts. The nervous system calms and harmonizes with other body systems. Temporary and long-term blocks to creating dissolve into openings to the ideas and writing we suspect are available, if only we knew the trick to unleashing them.

In writing from the body, what is authentic rises up. Material hiding on the edges in self-criticism, neglect, or hesitation is permitted to come forth. The red light turns yellow, then green. The body speaks, we listen, and our writerly self transforms mindful attention into a stream of writing previously off-limits.

I consider the creative flow, as in Chinese medicine, a meridian of the body. Chinese medicine maps twelve meridians, or energy highways, that at any given time are strong, weak, and everything in between. These meridians transport chi (ki in Japanese, prana in Sanskrit, subtle vital energy in the U.S.). In writing from the body, the stagnation in our creative flow meridian moves and strengthens. The body establishes a new and vital balance. We feels stirred, refreshed. We write.

In the decades of teaching Writing From the Body, I’ve repeatedly witnessed participants astound themselves with their output. They develop new material. They further material already in process. They strengthen voice, birth insight, build confidence. Most importantly, they connect to their writing.

I arrived at this method after years of spasms and pain from scoliosis. A well-meaning doctor advised me upon my entering high school to refrain from sports and any other physical activity. In college I ignored his advice and took a dance class. The sharp pains and debilitating muscle contractions subsided and eventually disappeared. A diet of movement and meditation became my daily practice. As my body unfolded, a bounty of awareness unfurled. My writing took off.

Try this simple exercise: Go somewhere to sit and observe. Notice what you hear, smell, see, and taste. Notice what sensations you feel and the emotions and thoughts that may arise. Notice the pattern of your breath which may be smooth or choppy, shallow or deep. After about ten minutes of sitting and observing, begin writing. Start with any of your observations or go with the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Write freely.

Until we are willing to acknowledge the chaos and mystery of our body, our writing can remain stunted. Writing is a journey into the territory of our being, our imagination, our breath, our chi. The body has stories to tell, poems to share, and awaits our attention. Learn its language to liberate writing.


Cheryl Pallant is teaching "Writing from the Body" this April at the Loft. She is an award-winning writer, author of four poetry books, four chapbooks, a nonfiction book, and journalist with over 200 articles in online and print magazines throughout the U.S. and abroad. Recent books include Continental Drifts (BlazeVOX Books, NY 2012) and Morphs (Cracked Slab Books, IL, 2009). As a journalist, she frequently writes about creativity, dance, writing, and spirituality. Her work has been anthologized and appeared in places like This Land Press, New York Quarterly, Creativity Portal and elsewhere. She is Winner of the Theresa Pollak Prize in Poetry and Finalist for the Bechtel Prize in Nonfiction, among other awards. She teaches writing and dance at University of Richmond and previously taught at University of Tulsa and Keimyung University in Korea. www.cherylpallant.com