Writing Naked – What Is It And How Can It Change Your Perspective?
Writing naked is not about shedding clothes. It’s about shedding layers and writing from the body.
I have a writing technique I like to call writing naked. It’s based on the idea of free writing, which is to sit down with paper and pen and write whatever comes to you without worrying about what it looks like. I tell myself to put aside all my preconceived notions of what I think my writing should look like, and to love whatever comes out of the process. No matter what!
Writing naked and the art of exploring vulnerability
When I talk about ‘writing naked’ it refers to exposing my (or my character’s) vulnerability. If I build a wall and write what I think I should write or what’s in fashion, or what I think people want to hear, then I lose a golden opportunity to be real. And when I lose this opportunity I don’t truly connect to others or to myself through my stories. I may be entertaining and get some laughs, yet I won’t necessarily be taken seriously and I won’t make a difference to anybody’s life, especially my own.
Exposing vulnerability – how deep should you go?
Obviously there are certain stories we can’t always tell or don’t feel ready to tell. Of course we shouldn’t share them if we don’t feel comfortable. It can even be dangerous for us to tell stories that we’re not ready to tell, because perhaps we still need to heal some wounds around these stories, and exposing them too soon may make us feel unsafe.
Also, if we haven’t quite worked out what the story means for us then we may not truly see the story we need to tell.
We may also look for certain reactions from our readers and feel wounded when we’re misunderstood. Yet when we’ve healed that part of ourselves, then no matter what people say about our stories or us, we’ll be ready.
If we’re writing a story involving others, say a family member, then we have to make that call about whether to write about them while they’re still living. Is it worth the risk? Perhaps no matter what, we need to tell our story whether the person is alive or dead, as it will allow us to get on with our lives. That’s a call we have to make when telling stories that involve others.
The answers to these questions lie within us.
Write from the body.
Sometimes in my writing workshops I ask students to bring their awareness down to the base of their spine and write from that place.
What does the spine have to do with telling stories?
Doing this allows us to bring our consciousness into our bodies instead of residing solely in our heads. When we bring our thoughts and ideas down, and into our bodies – into our bellies, our wombs (our pelvic bowls) – then we can also fully inhabit our stories. We stand a greater chance of telling real stories instead of whatever our heads want us to tell.
Using Morning Pages to break on through
Many use Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages as a way to get out of their own way. If you’ve never heard or done these before, Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing that you do in the morning. In a recent blog post Cameron explains why Morning Pages need to happen before we start our day:
“We are aiming to catch ourselves before our ego is awake, before its defenses are in place. We want to be vulnerable. If we wait to do pages late in the day, we find ourselves reviewing the day we have had and are powerless to change. Writing first thing in the morning, we lay down the track for the day that looms ahead of us. “
Each time I sit down to write naked I experience the true meaning of being alive in the world. I’m running out into the woods, turning over rocks, finding stuff I didn’t know existed. If I actually turn off my phone and stop obsessively checking Facebook and Twitter (and goodness knows what else…) and kindly tell people to leave me be, then I enter a state of flow where I feel at one with everything around me.
Some ways to ‘get naked’ with your writing:
- Experiment first. When you first start a project, experiment a little before nailing down what it is you want to write.
- Be a sponge. Some artists and writers don’t like to read or see stuff for fear of being influenced. This makes me laugh inwardly because I feel that we’re always being influenced (mostly without our even knowing it) so we might as well be exposed to the best art and best writing to see where we fit. Before you dig into a project, see what’s out there. If you’re writing memoir then check out the new, hot stuff coming down the pike!
- Embrace your imperfections. We all have aspects of ourselves we don’t like. Like the Japanese art of wabi sabi, imperfection is where it’s at. Don’t try to smooth yourself over or be someone you’re not, as your writing will suffer for it.
- Murder your darlings. Phrases have to work. If they don’t then no matter how much you love them, you need to get rid of them.
- Tell the truth. The American poet Emily Dickenson said, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” Not sure exactly what she meant, though I think it’s related to telling your version of how you see things.
- Dig deep. Dig deeper. Just when you think you’ve dug enough, there’s probably still some more digging to do. Give yourself time to discover your story or to allow it to discover you.
- Create a safe space to be naked with your writing. Where do you feel comfortable writing? I like to write in my home office, in a cafe, or on a train or boat. Find a quiet spot where you feel you can write and be yourself. Surround yourself with things that engage your senses such as stones, shells, feathers, and your favourite essential oils. Build a sacred space for your naked writing to take shape.
- We were born with our naked bodies and our stories. I think about how we came into the world naked and then we grew up and developed all sorts of ways to behave in order to be accepted. Writing naked is about peeling off those layers of clothing (or armour) to see what resides underneath.
- Pay attention. Look at the world around you. Take in everything: The sidewalks, the buildings, trees, dogs, and people. Notice the little things, such as the way a woman brushes her hair back or how a man taps his shoe on the street. God is in the details!
- Make everything count. If you write about a lost ring or a cut on someone’s chin, or if you’re writing copy for your business and mention your love of butterflies or fancy pens, make it count! Everything means something to the reader, so think about what details you should add and what you want them to tweak in the reader’s mind.
And most of all enjoy the sensual aspects of being naked with your writing. Breathe in the cosmic flow of your creative process as you connect to your body and to your heart’s desires.