In the fall of 2014, I received an email from New York Times editor, Phyllis Korkki asking if she could interview me on the topic of posture and creativity. She was writing a book about people with creative projects outside of their day jobs or "big things" as she terms them in her book. It turned out the the book itself was in fact, her own big thing, so her curiosity was far from purely theoretical. She also was interested in learning about how she could potentially apply what I was teaching about posture to her own writing process.
I perked up at the prospect of speaking to Ms. Korkki on this topic, as it clearly doesn't separate the physical from the mental. Often people think of posture as a way to hold yourself, but it's more of a state of being. The initial interview lead to a series of lessons and continued discussion on the topic
We may think of writing as an intellectual activity, but it's just as physical as soccer. You're just thinking and using your body in a very different way. If you're playing a team sport, your attention extends in all directions. There's a lot of thinking going on, but quick thinking about where to move next. The mind and body are clearly working in unison and you might find your posture improves without you having to think much about it, just like when sitting at a desk you might find your posture degenerating without even thinking about it.
If you're writing, sitting, and thinking you're focus is more internal and on the screen or pad of paper in front of you (rather than in all directions tracking where the ball is going), but it's still physical. You might stop noticing the physical sensation of sitting as you get wrapped up in the process of writing until something hurts or feels uncomfortable. When things start to feel uncomfortable, you may have less patience and focus. My personal experience with writing is that my ability to concentrate wanes and I have trouble finding a sense of flow if I don't feel present in my body and my environment. This disjointed feeling affects my ability to concentrate and to create.
Here's what Korkki says in her book about posture and creativity:
To create something new, I realized, I would need to perform certain actions, like typing, over and over again. It would be wise for me to consider my physical position as I did so. Repetitive movements, if done incorrectly, could cause discomfort and injury....Initially I had looked at the posture lessons as a preventative health measure. But once I started taking them, I realized that good posture literally opens you up to heightened creativity by reconnecting your head to your body.
If you've resolved this new years to get moving on a big project, click here to check out Phyllis Korkki's book, The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You're a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me.