Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stand Up and Write Like a Man (or something like that)

Psychologist Howard Gardner advances the idea of multiple intelligences and how people approach learning and living in different ways. People have a "knack" for understanding, learning, and creating in specific ways. Although he has developed different lists (of different lengths) over the years, here is one list.
  • Linguistic intelligence -- uses and processes language easily and effectively 
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence -- analysis, logic, reason, math, science are "natural" aptitudes
  • Musical intelligence -- good in all things musical (duh!) and, according to Gardner, is a parallel intelligence with linguistic
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence -- a connection between learning and the body, a "hands-on" learner
  • Spatial intelligence -- "the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas"
  • Interpersonal intelligence -- easily connects with and understands other people
  • Intrapersonal intelligence -- in touch with yourself, an ability to figure out what's going on with old #1
I'm interested in and want to share a few facts about "bodily-kinesthetic intelligence" and writing--specifically about writers.

A recent blog entitled "20 Acclaimed Authors and Their Unique Writing Rituals" provides fertile ground for the application of Gardner's multiple intelligences insights. Sometimes I (and students I teach) like to write or listen or read while standing. We are not alone, according to the writing rituals blog.

Vladimir Nabokov just couldn't sit down.: While writing the classic Lolita (and other works, of course), author Vladimir Nabokov launched into the day's work standing up. His study boasted a "lovely old-fashioned lectern" of which he was very proud, and he greatly preferred starting from there than his armchair or desk. However, Nabokov did admit that his legs did grow tired in such a position, but only then would he retire to one of the comparatively more leisurely options. He also preferred index cards to notebooks and legal pads, as their structure allowed him to easily move scenes around as he saw fit.
Philip Roth stays on his feet.: Standing burns many more calories than sitting, and decorated author Philip Roth — much like Vladimir Nabokov — prefers this physical calibration when writing. In addition to this healthy habit, he also pushes himself to walk half a mile for every page he completes. Despite age starting to plague his body, Roth continues this ritual to benefit both body and mind. As with Haruki Murakami, he believes that clarity and creativity come when all facets of a person operate in peak condition.
In addition to these obvious physical connections to the creative writing process, there are others in the "20 Rituals" article:
  • Victor Hugo liked to write "stripped down." That seems fairly physical to me.
  • Ben Franklin wrote and read in the bathtub. I wonder if the water stayed hot longer when he was busy on an idea.
  • Truman Capote called himself a "horizontal writer"--obviously the write-while-standing school gone sideways.
  • Demosthenes shaved off half his hair. There must be some body related learning style in that.
Of course, you could try shaving, stripping down, and getting into a bathtub of warm water while outside in your back yard (and eating an apple, like Alexandre Dumas). That might stimulate the writing muse. I just wouldn't recommend standing up. You might have to invoke your spacial intelligence, applying it to "more confined areas," rather than the open space of your backyard.

Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


Post a Comment