Body Movement for Writers by Faith Van Horne

 In today’s post, Author Faith Van Horne discusses the expressing of art through body movement for writers. Enjoy!

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For many writers I’ve met, writing is not their sole creative outlet. I know a number who are also paint, draw or create other visual art. I count my crafty writer friends in this group, who make beautiful jewelry and clothing. I envy them all, since whenever I try my hand at material art, it comes out a mess. I’m just not motivated or inclined that way.

Likewise, a number of writers also express themselves through body movement arts. I know some who dancers of some kind. One of my favorites, Jim Butcher, has practiced at least four different martial arts. I do count myself among this group. I’ve been practicing karate for over eight years, along with some Tai Chi and jiu jitsu.

Some might find it curious that I count martial arts as a form of creative expression. It’s easy to see someone kicking and punching, and focus more on the “martial” part than the “art” aspect. But karate is about much more than self-defense, though that is an essential aspect of it.

There are easier ways to learn how to defend oneself against an attacker, if that’s your only aim. Plenty of places offer brief self-defense classes that last a few weeks and teach life-saving skills. In terms of getting a workout, there are more straightforward ways to achieve that as well. (Though karate is a fantastic workout.)

A lot of people try a martial art for a little while and then move on to something else. Which is great. Even in a brief time practicing, one can learn important lessons about body awareness, situational awareness and self defense. But when a person spends decades at a martial arts practice, repeating the same kata movements over and over, swinging a bo thousands of times to refine technique, something more is going on.

I’m a huge advocate for body movement arts for everyone. But for people engaged in creative pursuits I find it takes on an added dimension. In our sedentary culture, which is also tied up in a jumbled mind/body dichotomy, it’s easy for us to spend a lifetime living in our heads. That’s particularly true for those of us who moon about, daydreaming up stories for much of our days. Too many writers, I think, undervalue their bodies, considering their brains the only part that really matters.

The idea of expressing art through one’s body can seem foreign in this environment, but I believe it’s vital for unlocking creative potential in other areas. When we open ourselves to more forms of expression, we have access to a greater store of experience to bring to other pursuits. I’ve written before about how a simple physical act like taking a walk can free up a mental tangle and let words flow more freely. But a more focused practice, where the physical act itself is an art form, brings so much more to other creative endeavors.

When I wrote my first guest blog here, I originally envisioned it as the first in a series, exploring what martial arts can bring to writing above and beyond improved physical fitness. Over the next few months I’ll explore that more. We’ll discuss how martial arts enhance creative writing, and how the narrative mindset of writing can improve one’s body movement practice as well.

So let’s get started. Do you practice a body movement art? What has it brought to your writing?

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Faith_thumbnailFaith Van Horne is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Slideways. Her collection of offbeat horror stories, Super Sargasso, is now available. She is currently working on another novel. In her free time, she practices karate, and even helps teach it a little. She also blogs at Scribatious (faithvanhorne.blogspot.com).

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6 Responses

  1. Anna Erishkigal says:

    I study Urban Goju 2x/week and also an hour-long basic gymnastics lesson. If left to my own devices, I would sit at my computer and type all day long, but the physical exercise helps me add realism to my battle scenes. It also helps that I am not a natural athlete, so the need to study extra hard to master basic moves other people learn easily, but I -can- master them if I keep trying, helps me write about that struggle in my writing.

  2. FAITH VAN HORNE says:

    That’s really cool, thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard of Urban Goju, but I’m familiar with Okinawan Goju Ryu. I study another Okinawan style, Matsubayashi Ryu. I’m always excited to learn about new martial arts.

  3. Anna Erishkigal says:

    Urban Goju is the Americanized style of Goju Ryu … descended from same grand-masters, different forks of the path. So that would make us martial-arts cousins? 🙂

  4. FAITH VAN HORNE says:

    In a way, sort of, yeah, I can see that. 🙂 Hm, now I’m curious about how the Americanized form is different. I’ll have to research.

  5. Clare Deming says:

    Hmm, I never thought about martial arts and writing quite that way. I’ve been a fencer for about 15 years, but it’s more of a form of exercise and stress relief to me. Although when writing fantasy it does help to be familiar with swords and the interplay of attack, parry, and distance.

  6. FAITH VAN HORNE says:

    Clare, that’s important, too! I love it when writers bring their areas of expertise into their stories.

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