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Recently, I read an article about what workers from the future will look like. To be honest, I didn’t read the closely. I was too horrified by the life-sized model—sallow skin, wide hips, neck curved like a drooped flower—demonstrating how the human body will devolve if we look to screens rather than the sun for our sustenance.
I immediately sat up straighter, but that wasn’t enough, so I stood and did something physical for the rest of the day. But of course I returned to my computer. I had a book to write, a book that’d been giving me terrible trouble. My editor sent the first version back. It was a blow to my ego, my calendar (I had other projects I needed to get started on), and my body (more time in that computer chair). Plus—despite it being my 19th novel—I’d made up my mind I couldn’t figure out the rewrites, and maybe couldn’t finish the book.
Because of that article, and a hundred imaginary neck pains I’d felt since I read it, after weeks of struggling against self-doubt and getting little editing done, I decided to pull out my laptop and move to another room in my house to write. It was less convenient. (I couldn’t bring all my notes with me.) It was less comfortable. (I moved between a couch and a chair.)
And it was my breakthrough. Literally the second I moved, new ideas started flowing, and I saw the path, finally, that book was meant to take. The only thing that changed was my literal perspective when writing. I know having rooms to choose from and a laptop to bring is a luxury not everyone has, but I don’t think either is necessary. A notebook and a new view could do the trick.
When creating, we must remember to move ourselves.
Not just in body. In soul and spirit, too. My18th book, UNSPEAKABLE THINGS, releases very soon, and it’s my breakout novel. Finally. It’s the rawest and best thing I’ve ever written, as close to memoir as fiction can come, and I’ve got very exciting news to announce about it on December 1.
But here’s what’s important right now: the book is good because it moved me. I wrote toward what scared me, and when your writing is that honest, it moves things in your life, too. Old, constrictive relationships fracture, other ones heal or strengthen, new ones are born. That’s the power of writing, if it comes from an authentic place. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying, and I think only possible in community with other creatives. I certainly couldn’t have gone that deep alone.
I hope you’ll join one of my writing retreats (I'm holding two writing retreats in a spectacular, Hogwarts-esque residential library in Wales UK; a luxury writing retreat on historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul; and a serene writing retreat near Garden of the Gods in soulful Colorado), where we create community, where we nurture our minds and bodies, and where we write, write, and write. But whether you’re on a glorious writing retreat or working on your project in stolen hours, don’t forget that your primary goal is to move yourself, body and soul.
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