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5 ways to bring embodiment into your writing process

If you’re bored of your writing practice or feeling stuck, tap into the information you carry around with you all day, every day. No, not your brain. Lower. Nope. Lower. Lower again.


All that.


Tap into your body.


1. Breathe for your writing

I kind of get annoyed when I read breathing advice. They’ve “discovered” all these different ways of breathing! New techniques! New practices! Let’s face it you do, and I do it, (birds do it, bees do it) and we all know we need to do it, because … we’re living.


What I will say about breathing in general, is that you don’t want to do things that will restrict your breathing. And if you’re like me, you too might have listened to clients or interview subjects and held your breath, as if “baited”. It’s a compliment to the speaker but it doesn’t describe a good action for the brain or the body. In fact, if you want a definition of a good action, you should be able to breathe while doing it in any old way you want, as long as you are able to get that air into you easily.


When your writing mojo is strong and you don’t notice your breathing while actually breathing, that’s fine. If you’re writing and you are so into it but you stop breathing or hold your breath? Not fine.


What you need to do is take frequent breaks. Take a few refreshing deep breaths before you sit down to write in any case. It cleanses your system, supplies oxygen where it’s needed, and will remind your brain, lungs, diaphragm and ribs what they are meant to do as a team without pause, as you start to write. And it’s a simple non-woo-woo ritual to do that signals to yourself how much you care about what you’re about to write.


A writer with afro hair sits on a sofa kisaing ger Jack Russel dog on the head. A laptop sits on the table in front of her.

2. Centre, before writing.

Being centred is integral to doing most things well. And writing is no exception. Even if you are writing an opinion piece, you can’t get to the core of what you really think if you aren’t calibrated to you, and what you believe in. So before you sit down to write, notice whether you feel both feet on the ground.


Is your posture allowing you to see the screen without bowing your head or slumping your shoulders? Don’t work so hard to operate the device or pen or whatever tool you use.


You can use these 30 seconds of centring to do the breathing detailed above, centre your body by swaying forwards and backwards, then side to side, and taking in your surroundings. Check whether you have everything you need to get started. While my list includes ink cartridges, markers, or paper, yours might include cut flowers, a smoothie or a scented candle. You do you.


These short check-ins reduce that chaotic feeling, or any sense of overwhelm. It also helps if you know what you are about to do (how long you have for this session, how many words you want to hit, and bullet points for content to start with). Essentially, the act of centring is about slowing down. We could all do with more of that in modern life.


A Caucasian writer lies on a bed with 4 throw pillows, typing on a laptop, while sipping from a white coffee cup.

3. Be kind, while writing

When you’re writing be clear about the stage of the writing process you’re in.

The first draft is about turning up and smashing out … something. Editing is about ensuring that the content is right, the structure works, and the mechanics of your writing are up to scratch. Polishing or rewriting is your time to check whether you have matched the vision of what you wanted to say with expressing what you have penned.


When you write, separate the writing from your self.


If the writing sucks, it’s the writing that sucks - not you that does.


Maybe you need a break. Maybe you need water! Maybe you need more input, a fresh perspective, or a walk to get things moving.


A writer with dark straight hair sits cross-legged on a carpeted floor with an Airbook next to her, while writing in a planner with a fountain pen.

2 bonus tips for embodying your writing


4. Edit your orientation

Notice what happens when you change your orientation, or your perspective.

  • What would it be like if you sat or stood somewhere else than you normally do?

  • What would the result be like? Can you sustain that new orientation (at the kitchen table, in a busy café, in a cemetery at night or simply on the other side of your desk)?

  • What sort of chaos would ensue if you typed with your hands crossed at the wrist? Or what if you wrote with a crayon or piece of chalk?

  • What would it do to your editing if you hung your printout on pegs on the clothesline? What if you wrote from the perspective of your reader, or changed the perspective from third person to first or second person – just for a spell?

  • When you’ve done this sort of experiment, ask what you have produced that is novel; what is non-habitual?

  • Did interesting words or ideas appear?

  • Is there new material to be mined by changing your physical orientation in the space, or of your body, or your instruments – even for five minutes?

A blonde writer squints at a laptop screen while sitting in the sun in front of a wooden table. She is wearing a white shirt and jeans while writing.

5. Place yourself in contrast

Stand on your tiptoes and reach to the sky, and then squat like a frog! Repeat that a few times. Stand with your feet planted on the ground and stretch your left arm as far left as possible, and then your right arm as far right as possible. Notice how it feels when you meet yourself in that Goldilocks spot right in the middle.


What happens if you write in extremities about your topic – the polar opposite to what you believe and then ‘too’ far in the direction you feel most invested in? How can this sort of contrast in your writing help you find your true North?


Go one, give a few of these tips a go. If you do, articulate to yourself what you feel in your body and where. The better you get at it, the more at home you will feel in the whole of your body. This is a distinction worth making because as a writer – you’re most at home in the head … am I right?


This of course is the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got a thousand of these tips to share, but I’m noticing right now I need coffee – strong, hot, black coffee. So I’m going to take a break and respond to that.


Jane Hardjono is That Embodiment Writer, a nonfiction book coach based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Visit Jane’s website.

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