(I recently taught a writing workshop at Adams State University entitled Guts, Ground and Gaia: Writing From the Body. I’m curious to see if there is resonance out there with these ideas, or if there’s any interest in taking this workshop.)
Writing deeply from the body not only gives power and resonance to our writing, but more importantly it connects us to our visceral experience, the ground upon which we stand, and the planet that supports us.
Writing from the body takes on special importance in our digital age because many predict that the body will soon be declared obsolete. The fool’s gold of technology, shimmering and glinting in the shallows, seduces us away from our physical experience. We risk being exiled from our bodies, estranged and disembodied.
The repercussions of disembodiment ripple wide. Art, music, and theater have already been eviscerated from many public schools. So has physical education. Are the humanities next? If we lose our connection to our bodies, how easy will it be to lose our connection to place, and to planet? Will the collective wisdom of our bodies disappear like the vanishing song birds, the pollinating bees, the long-tusked elephant, the wide-eyed whale? Will the body be declared obsolete?
These are some of the ideas and issues I’ve been exploring for quite some time in my writing, my art, and in my life. I plan to post more excerpts from my Aikido memoir manuscript that explore embodiment, and I welcome comments about these ideas. What does embodied writing feel like, sound like, look like, to you?
Arriving at the Depth
by Mary Elizabeth Van Pelt
In response to Kathy Park’s question: What does embodied writing feel like, sound like, look like, to you?
Embodied writing is about feeling grounded and connected. Feeling connected to myself, to others, to my environment and to a greater purpose.
It’s about finding my way into the rabbit hole, a place where I explore an idea or story. It’s a meditative space where I’m not distracted by the haunting voices of my own interior world—those taunting demons that live in my mind.
Embodied writing means I’m in a place where I’m not distracting myself with checking rituals. I don’t reach for books on the shelf or go to the Internet to look up facts. It’s a place where I resist the sudden urge to organize my sock drawer, do the dishes, weed the garden or any one of a thousand tasks that glitter with such importance.
Embodied writing comes from what I know, writing from my own feelings and experiences. If there’s a fact I can’t remember then I find another way. I don’t run upstairs to look up the exact date, instead I write: It was the year that my brother Peter was born.
Embodied writing requires a receiver. I’m writing to someone who cares about what I have to say, or at least I need to believe that. When I don’t have the feeling of being received then I can’t write. Only fragments come like choppy note taking: names of people, colors and textures, pieces of conversation. I have journals filled with these fragments that may or may not ever become whole.
Sometimes I have to write through a bunch of surface chatter before I arrive at the depth of what I have to say. That was the case when I wrote about leaving Gene’s cremated remains in the San Juan Mountains. I wrote three pages before I found the place where I could describe the rock on the hillside across from a green valley where I left a handful of his ashes. Then, saying goodbye, I touched the tip of my tongue to the white powder that remained on my fingertips. Saying goodbye to a man I loved in the mountains that he loved. Intimate disclosure on the page always brings the risk of judgment; it can also strengthen self-worth and self-acceptance.
Embodied writing is about losing myself in the words and losing track of time. Embodied writing is daring myself to speak my truth, to enter into the dark side of a story. It’s about exploring possibilities, seeking the mystery, asking questions and not needing to have all the answers.
Embodied writing connects me to others in surprising and unexpected ways. In my first memoir, In Silence I Speak: My Journey Through Madness, I wrote about the oppression I experienced. I discovered my writing empowered readers to find their own voice and speak their own truth.
I long for my writing to make a big splash in the world, to make a difference for people who experience psychiatric oppression. Embodied writing, writing that is sincere and comes from the heart of my experience gives my words and my voice a chance of being heard in the world. Embodied writing connects me to a larger purpose.
Mary, I love what you say about needing a receiver, “someone who cares about what I have to say” whether or not that person is real or imagined. Thank you for letting me be that someone in your reply to my query. Thank you for taking my question seriously.