I was browsing through one of my books on writing (specifically, The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach by Christina Katz) and a tip regarding writing about the body caught my eye. The author spoke of how we have so many memories stored inside our bodies. This led me to thinking that if I brainstormed creative nonfiction essay ideas or journal entries about my own body, what would I write about?
I’ve already written about the bump in the middle of my nose, and how I received it after falling off a pogo ball my stepfather bought me in the 1980s. I can still remember the taste of blood as it poured from my nose and onto the concrete sidewalk, and how by the end of the evening I could barely breathe from all the swelling and I lay huddled under the comforter on my bed, wondering why my parents hadn’t taken me to the hospital and vowing not to go to school until the bruises faded. (I didn’t know back then that my parents didn’t have health or dental insurance throughout much of my childhood.)
I could write about the scar I have on the inside of my right calf, the result of me locking myself in the bathroom in middle school determined to finally shave my legs. I was tired of people making fun of the long black hairs that were so evident when I put on my regulation tiny gym shorts, and the mother who didn’t understand. I can still remember her pounding on the door because she heard me crying after I sliced open the skin on the inside of my leg with a disposable Gillette razor. How many of these body stories could we share from adolescence?
But when writing about our bodies there should be balance of painful memories and good insights, right? I can also write about how I recently stopped recording what I eat every day in my online food diary, because I’m just exhausted. I can’t do it anymore. I’m 44 years old and I have curves. I work out almost every single day and eat healthy 85 percent of the time. I’m not going to weigh what I did in my early 20s, and to be honest, I wasn’t a healthy person back then, mentally or physically. I also don’t have much of a problem with my stretch marks—the daughter who gave them to me because she was more than eight pounds when she was born is beautiful, brilliant and my best friend and about to turn 18. I could also write about my skin, how important it is to protect it, and the connection I have with my ancestors who also had skin that turned a beautiful brown color in the sun.
Our bodies have so many stories. Think about your hands, feet, skin, hair, bruises, scars, bumps, muscles and tissue. What could you write about if you let yourself explore?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer, editor and podcaster. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.