Get your body ready for writing!

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a TED Talk about how to get your body ready for writing….

Many of my clients dread the idea of writing. Why? Here’s what they do when they prepare to write: They tighten their shoulders. They hold their breath. They give their computer screen the beady eye.

My first piece of advice is always the same: BREATHE. Many people suffer from what I like to call “writing apnea.” If this condition afflicts you, understand that it’s an easy problem to solve if you’ll simply take the time to breathe.

My advice is echoed by Theresa Byrne, (pictured above), a self-defense expert and fourth degree Master Black Belt who recently delivered a TED talk on how we can better deal with our inner critics. (To me, this makes it a talk on how to prepare for writing.)

Byrne says that by adjusting our body language, we send signals to our brain that can help fight off the inner critic. “In martial arts, we turn that inner fear into ferocity,” she says.

In addition to breathing more mindfully, Byrne has two other pieces of advice:

  1. Use a mantra: Yes, a phrase that you recite aloud can help take the wind out of the sails of your inner critic. Byrne says it’s important to have the expression ready in advance because when your inner bully is triggered, you need immediate support. Two of Byrne’s favorite mantras are “I am powerful” and “I’ve got this.”
  2. Take an “attention” stance: An “attention” stance is when you stand tall with your feet planted on the ground and your shoulders pulled back.  The idea is to pay attention to how you feel in the moment, and to the space around you.

I’ve worked as a high school debate coach and I remember training my students to take up as much space with their bodies as they could. This simple manoeuvre — which would see them widening their stances and using wider, more self-assured hand gestures — helped them speak with greater confidence and less fear.

The same tricks can help writers, too.