Try something. As long as you have healthy arms and shoulders I promise it’s not dangerous:
Stand dead-center in the nearest single doorway with your arms at your sides, and then press them out against the sides of the frame. Press harder. Harder! Hold it for one minute. It should be pretty uncomfortable at the end.
Now relax your arms and walk into the room.
OK, you probably didn’t do it, but if you did, your arms would have started rising up as if attached to a pair of helium balloons (cue “Comfortably Numb”).
The point of this post isn’t to get you to try the Floating Arms Experiment anyway. It is, believe it or not, a post about writing.
I’m glad I used my 20th and last free article of the month on nytimes.com to read Michael Erard’s meditation on structural priming–the brain’s automatic way of referring to sentences it recently arranged for cues on how to arrange its next one.
Like Mr. Erard, I also have a writing Day Job that has nothing, stylistically, to do with the aesthetic strivings of the foiled rock musician still living in my head, still watching the lava lamp ooze. Novels, poetry, all that. Stop laughing. Just you wait.
We digress. Structural priming is one of those ideas that makes so much sense that you feel like you always sort of knew it, you had just never articulated it before. You write in the morning and the words are still bouncing around in your head in the evening (if you’re resilient enough to still be writing then).
I presume this is the same reason memorizing good writing is a smart move. Leave pretty footprints in your brain’s wet sand.
Going forward I’m going to try to take advantage of this knowledge. Not by typing out my William Gaddis impressions in the morning so I can turn in pomo masterpiece press releases to clients in the afternoon, or with any single dogmatic routine–but I will be keeping a much closer eye on which type of fuel I’m putting into which vehicle, if you get my drift.
Do you notice your writing, or your anything from the morning reverberating throughout your day?