Writing On The Body

I have been having a difficult time writing the past few months. I find that when I sit down to write not only is the page empty but so are my thoughts. Now this is an ideal state for a meditator- but for me, a man who considers himself an aspiring writer- this can be a catastrophe. I find the blank page intimidating, as if it is awaiting for me to say something profound. Nothing profound comes to my mind and my inspiration to write dwindles away like water down the drain. I am left feeling hopeless and despairing because for most of my life it has been my dream to write a large collection of novels, short stories and plays but I feel incapable of getting an interesting word upon the page. This is not a case of writer’s block that I am suffering from- instead it is something much more physical or physiological. When I sit down to write my body feels impatient, like it has more important things to take care of. This causes my mind to loose concentration and interest in the multiplicity of story ideas that I cart around in my head from day to day. Last week, when I told my therapist about my problem- he recommended that I write on the body.

The older I get the further away I feel like I am getting from literary success. By now I thought I would have had at least a novel or two published and be making a moderate income as a great writer. Instead the opposite is true. I teach high school English at an inner city school. I start writing novels and never get past the third chapter. I also have composed numerous short stories that I fail to re-write and collect into a short story collection. When my therapist asked me why I do not make an effort to succeed as a writer- all I could say was “because my body will not let me.”

I have always had a body that seems to dislike stillness. It always wants to move and go do something else. It has trouble sitting still and working on one thing for an extended period of time. My body is filled with an anxiety that keeps it moving so that sickness, paralysis or death will not catch up with it. It is almost as if my minds ability to control my body is absent and I have become a victim of my own physiological processes. A French philosopher once referred to this state of anxiety as “no exit.” The mind is held prisoner in a body that is always running away from entropy, he said. However, one fundamental law that all living organisms must obey is that there is no escaping entropy….no exit.

So I have tried different modalities to control my anxious body (hoping that it would settle down and let me write my masterpiece). I have taken mindfulness seminars, done meditation workshops and taken hundreds of Yoga classes. All to no avail. In fact it seems as if these introverted exercises have made my body even more rebellious. I have grown more anxious and more impatient with my inability to sit still and be at peace. It is almost as if my body is intentionally trying sabotage the stories that my mind wants to write.  I am convinced that my body does not want my mind to become a successful writer- so it refuses to sit still for considerable length of time. Why this is- is indeed a mystery to me. However, I am learning how to embrace the mystery. Literally.

So the past two days I have taken my therapists advice. Even though what I have been doing may threaten my marriage and my job security I feel as if I am slowly beginning to make an inch of literary progress. Maybe there is the slight, very slight possibility that I will be able to write a novel or a book of short stories and live my dream. Instead of staring at a blank page or judging the nature of my thoughts- I have begun to write on my body. I use a regular Bick pen and whenever a thought comes to mind instead of facing a blank piece of paper or having to sit still- I simply write it on my flesh. I have filled up my chest and left arm with a story idea that I have been incapable of writing for months. It is the story of a man who is a nobody but he is desperately trying to become a somebody. I can write this story while I am walking. I can write when I go to the bathroom. I can write on my arm when I am driving. I can even write while doing my yoga practice. When I have filled up my entire chest, legs and arms I will photograph the writing on my body and then take a much needed shower. If I can continue to do this for the entirety of my story it is possible that in a few months I will have written a full novel upon my body. I will then take the photographs of the text to a typist and pay them to write up the manuscript. When I told my therapist about this today, he seemed perplexed. Even though he had given me the original idea- he never thought I would actually write on my body. He claimed to have meant that I should “write upon the body of the stories that you want to write- summaries, outlines- not your actual body!!” When I tried to explain to him that a writer’s need to write is stronger than any force of nature- he suggested that we start meeting twice a week.

1 Comment

  1. Not much worse than prefering to paint with fingertips or hands or other bodily parts, instead of a brush, is it? Now, really? Sometimes when I paint it is very difficult to tell the artist from the canvas, and I feel totally in harmony with what I’m doing. I even start to believe it must be the ultimate way of capturing my own genius in a creative process that goes way further than anyone has ever been before…

    … and then my husband tells me to go and wash myself.

    Amusing writing, as always, Randall! 🙂

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