For awhile now, I’ve had a series of posts called ‘Why Do I Write’. I haven’t updated those posts in awhile, even when I promised to post one after the publication of ‘Word Sexual’, but I haven’t yet had the time or the emotional stamina to do so. However, the other day when i was at the gym I got the brilliant idea of posting some of the routines and physical things that I do in order to become a better poet and person. Unlike with my ‘Why Do I Write’ series, however, these posts do not have the purpose of better explaining me or my writing. Instead, it is my hope that sharing my own processes for writing, from the mundane to the bizarre, will jump start other writers and readers who are stuck in their own ruts, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, by showing different ways of getting through things.
So why not start with the incident that made me think of this series?
My work outs don’t seem all that intensive. Because of issues that my body has, I cannot do much that is high impact or requires major lung capacity or stamina. So I walk for an hour around the track at the recreation center near my home. Sometimes, if I’m feeling a little adventurous, I will do so outside in a four mile loop around my neighborhood (usually because I need to get the sun). During these work outs, I play the same songs over and over again, taking care to select songs that are different in genre, tempo and type. Then, while I’m walking, I will mouth each song. I take care to ensure that, if I were speaking, I am mouthing the words so clearly that enunciation would be nearly perfect. Heck, when I meet someone I know while I’m working out, ninety-eight percent of the time they can tell what song I’m listening to because they can see the words on my mouth. Most of the time, this elicits some pretty weird looks from people who do not know me. Doesn’t matter though- I’m doing it for my poetry.
Mouthing the words to songs as I walk aimlessly around the track in front of a bunch of strangers helps me prepare for readings. Weird, I know, but man is it effective. You see, I don’t need to work on the volume of my voice or my projection- I’m a naturally loud person. What I do need to work on, constantly, is my speed and my enunciation. Mouthing the words of songs that I love helps me to internalize their rhythms. I focus on the tone of the song- is it angry? is it a love song?- and I begin to associate that song’s speed with it’s feeling. I become aware of how much I need to breathe in order to make each word heard. I take on a less robotic feel in my reading because, in my head, I’m ‘singing’ at a speaking tone. And seeing people staring at me as I mouth the words, I become more confident. I’m not actually speaking to them, and their attention is usually fleeting, but it gets me acclimated to having eyes on me while my mouth is moving. It may seem like a mighty stretch, but honestly it works.
Sometimes the key to prepping yourself for the most daunting parts of your writing career (which for me is definitely readings) is by fitting in your preparation into things you already do. By using this method of mouthing along to songs while I’m working out, I’m essentially giving myself something to do while I work out so I don’t want to quit my work out early. I’m also tricking myself into working on my stage presence and reading ability without psyching myself out by saying straight out to myself that I’m preparing for a reading. It’s something I’ve forced myself to do habitually, rather than last-minute.
It works, too. When I was starting out, people clapped politely when I read and then friends told me later that they could barely understand me. Now, I get complimented more often on the way I speak than on what I’m even saying. I honestly think its a testament to finding ways to improve yourself that are complimentary to things you already have to do (or already enjoy doing), instead of stacking stress upon stress on yourself.
That being said, it’s about time for me to go do my walk for the day. Why don’t you comment and let us know one way that you deal with a stressful obligation in a complimentary way?