Friday, February 08, 2008

Body Double

“If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage.” - Cynthia Ozick

Even on good days I need little tricks to keep writing. Bribery. Coercion. Threats. And right now I have to pull out all the stops. One trick is what Linda Anderson, an organizational expert, refers to as the body double principle. No. Not like in the movies. No one’s doing a nude scene here.

In writing, a body double is simply another person physically present, usually another writer working away beside me. I’ve been using several friends for this purpose for some time now. I don’t know if they realize they’re being used, but they don’t seem to mind. We meet at a coffeehouse and work on our individual projects at the same time.

But since my mother died, I haven’t wanted to write. I just want to sleep. Yet the fact that my friend would be at the coffeehouse tugged at me. So I joined her. She is disciplined. I am not. I stir and spin. There she sat working away, so I sat next to her. After a few minutes, I got up to get coffee. Then I had to go to the bathroom. Then refill my coffee. I sat again. I sifted through my bag. I pulled out one project, returned it, then drug out another. All the while my friend continued to work. My mind watched her. Sitting near her calmed me and eventually I began to work. Hours passed and I was amazed when I looked at my watch. I only had fifteen minutes before I needed to leave.

According to Anderson, “. . . the body double serves as a physical and emotional anchor for the distracted individual who feels more centered by the presence of another person in their space.”

I don’t know exactly why it works, but it does and I’m going to keep using it.