What is Proprioceptive Writing? A Semi-Review
Have you ever been in a bookstore and felt a randomly powerful magnetic pull towards a particular book? That’s what happened with me recently, and this book: Writing the Mind Alive, The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice.
Something about the cover, title, and my endless fascination with rooting into layers of expression drew me to giving this writing experiment a try.
The word proprioception comes from the Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own,” and is usually referred to the body’s physical and mental sensation of itself.
It is our ability to feel where our body parts are even when we are not directly focusing on them, and having a sense of property over our own being.
Similarly, proprioceptive writing is a practice which aims to bring awareness to our thinking minds, as they are operating moment by moment, and as they operated in the past.
In meditation, we are often instructed to notice as our thoughts appear or flow through consciousness, and to simply let them go, brush them away, or observe their languid passing without attachment.
Proprioceptive writing is basically a written version of the opposite!
In this writing practice you are following your active thoughts in order to unravel them to completion, and even propelling yourself to continue exploring them further - nudging them to keep going if your mind stops before the writing exercise is complete.
With time and practice, the result is a discovery of a wealth of inner material that could spark realization, develop your true unique voice, liberate self-expression, help you process past events, and experience the kind of relief that can only come from long-desired mental clarity.
If you’ve ever tried stream of consciousness writing, or morning pages, this feels slightly more probing and challenging at first.
You are literally trying to hear the voice of your own thoughts and transcribe it, recognizing when you have stopped because of fear or hesitation around some subject that the other practices would generally allow you to circumvent, and instead asking the proprioceptive question of “what you meant by ..." one of the words that stand out to you in the previous statement before you paused.
Here's an example:
I don’t know what I should be writing now, this is strange and confusing and I feel stuck both now and in general… (pause) (continue with the proprioceptive question to keep going) what do I mean by stuck? I suppose I mean immobile, unable to make progress, caught between the past and the future like an animal in headlights, frozen in fear. (pause) what do I mean by fear? It's how I feel in my approach to writing in general. What if I release something that I can't control? What if I'm not ready to confront a story from the past? What if I'm just not good at it? All these fears keep me from moving forward and staying small. Etc.
It's pretty interesting to look back and see how your mind wanders, and how it reveals perceptions you might not otherwise be aware of.
Allowing whatever comes, not letting yourself off the hook when you hit upon a stopping word, and digging in to your own subconscious every day is what the practice is all about.
Please note that I can’t possibly summarize the entirety of how this process should occur as I am paraphrasing my personal understanding and experience rather than being a true representative of the process as the authors and teachers of this method would be. For this reason, I highly recommend getting the book or checking out a Proprioceptive writing retreat if this appeals to you.
But wait, there’s more!
There’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet: this writing practice should be done while listening to Baroque music, the rationale being that it helps to focus your mind while matching the rhythm of the heart in order to lull you into a creatively aware and open state. Something like this...
I have to admit that my regularity has been on and off, when I first began I practiced consistently for about 2 weeks, and have since reduced to a few times a week, but even still, it has been a positive experience resulting in greater ease with self-expression both professionally and personally. I’m finding that I can speak or write with better flow, experience less hesitation or avoidance in my thinking mind, and am more tuned in to overall creative energy.
Check out the book, give it a try, and see what you think.