Creativity With James Nave: ON BEING INTIMATE
Like most song writers, one of my most important goals is to achieve an intimate connection with the people who read my work. Yet, often for me, and maybe for you too, my official writer takes over. My work veers so far away from my imaginative storm that it reads like a tax return: wooden, self-conscious, and distant. On the surface, letting your official writer run the show might seem like a smart, safe strategy, but what if you want more? What if you want your writing to be intimate, messy, and emotional? Maybe you have an unruly tale whispering in the basement? Or memories dangling on a branch after the wind blows through? I remember a few years ago, I took acting classes in New York City at Black Nexxus Studios. I was getting my MFA in poetry and I wanted to learn how to connect more intimately with my work. Often, during the class, my teacher Susan Batson would say, “If you want your work to have intimacy, you have to open up and let your audience see what’s inside. Think of your body as your instrument. Intimacy means into-me-see.” No matter what creative writing discipline you practice, using your body as your instrument will help you connect on a deeper emotional level intellectually, physically, and spiritually. You’ll become more spontaneous, creative, open, and, by extension, more intimate. So, if you’d like to experiment with this idea, here are some songwriting tips that will get you started. I learned it from Mary Setrakian who is a great voice teacher based in New York. Begin by picking a song you know. For example, “Summertime” or “Singing In the Rain” or even “Happy Birthday”. Now, find a straight-backed chair. Sit down. Relax. Take a breath. Now, sing your song one time through. Even if it’s a little off-key, don’t worry. Nobody’s listening. Now, sing it again. This time, while you’re singing, alternate between standing up and sitting down. And keep doing that as you sing. Notice how using your body focuses you on the process rather than on the result. You smile. You chuckle. You laugh. You’re relaxed. You might even sing on key. Most of all, you’re open. Now, pick a topic that you’re working on right now. Repeat the singing exercise for a minute or so. Then, on the last beat, remain standing and write for ten minutes on the topic you picked. Notice how your writing flows when your body is warmed up, relaxed, and engaged. We’re all so used to holding our bodies in a certain way. Maybe hunched over, closed in, protecting ourselves, that we forget our bodies are our instruments. Opening up makes your work more creative. You become more intimate and you invite others in. Intimacy: into-me-see. Now that’s an idea worth spreading.