How Movement, Painting and Improvisation Can Enhance Your Writing

Do you know that you can enhance your writing skills by trying new creative modes of expression?  By taking risks and creating “in the moment” you’ll be forging new neural pathways that will serve you well when you return to face the blank page. Trying something new shakes you up a bit, and encourages you to move from the realm of the known to the unknown.

I admire people with a singular artistic focus; individuals who at age four or five knew in their bones they would someday play the violin in a symphony orchestra or be a celebrity figure skater. .

WOMAN WITH LOTS OF THOUGHTSBut my own creative path has been serendipitous and winding.  I have never been able to choose one singular
way to express those creative urges that surge up within me.  Right now writing is at the centre of the circle, but singing, dancing, painting, photography, making things with my hands, and gardening cluster around the edges.  I believe they all feed and enrich my writing.

Are you feeling adventurous?  Here are some suggestions for taking the plunge into a new creative modality.

Spontaneous Movement

DANCING WOMANOur bodies need to move.  They’re not meant to sit all the time (at the breakfast table, in the car, at work, in front of the TV).  By freeing our bodies we also free our thoughts and feelings.   Movement and dance get us out of our heads and into our bodies – especially spontaneous dance.

  • I recently participated in an African dance workshop facilitated by Elisha MacMillan.  We danced to live drumming provided by drummers from Shaw Percussion.  If you have an opportunity to do this in your community – jump at the chance
  • click here to read about another experience I had with spontaneous dance
  • The 5Rhythms™ is an approach to movement developed by (the late) Gabrielle Roth.  Click here to learn more about the practice.  The website also includes links to certified teachers of the method
  • check your local fitness or recreation centre for Nia™ or Zumba™ movement classes. These classes are fairly structured, but will give you an opportunity to move your body to music
  • at home, play some music you love – something with a great beat – and dance up a storm in your own living room!

Expressive Painting  – Why not create your own playful homegrown art adventure?  

Here are some tips for getting started:DSCN1318

  •  at a local art supply store, purchase some tempera paint “pucks” (the kind kids use in kindergarten), some large brushes and some cartridge paper.  This paper is sold in 40 sheet pads (24” x 36”) for under $10.  It is more resilient than newsprint and will stand up to water-based paints
  • save large plastic  containers for water
  • find a time when you won’t be disturbed.  Cover your working surface with newsprint and play a piece of instrumental music that inspires you.  Plunge your brush into the water then intuitively pick up whichever colour attracts you
  • paint what you hear, spontanteously, using the colours that you’re attracted to
  • you may also choose to paint in silence, letting colours and images rise up from within
  • when your painting feels complete, move on to another one
  • focus on your enjoyment of the process, as opposed to the outcome
  • hang your work where you can see it and be inspired by it – maybe in your writing area
  • you may wish to keep a notebook nearby, and do some free writing after you have been relaxed by your painting experience
  • an excellent resource for spontaneous painting is Life, Paint and Passion – Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression by Michele Cassou and Stuart Cubely


“Improvisation is at the heart of creativity” says Kate Arms-Roberts in her excellent post “Wisdom for Writers from the World of Improv.” Click here to read the full post.  Participating in improvisation classes is a great way to get you creating in the moment.

  • Second City offers improvisation classes for adults in Toronto. Curious?  A drop-in improv class is offered every Monday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. for only $15
  • I’ve recently become interested in InterPlay.  This description is from their website.   “InterPlay is an active, creative way to unlock the wisdom of the body.  It uses forms associated with the arts – movement, storytelling, voice, stillness.  It invites people into the present.”
  • Kate Arms-Roberts is a certified InterPlay Leader who offers workshops locally. Click here and here for more information
  • also check local theatre groups or continuing education calendar for classes near you

Take Yourself on an Artist’s Date

Julia Cameron popularized the notion of the artist’s date in her classic book, The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Schedule some time just for you to “fill your creative well” says Julia.  The process is simple.

  • schedule a date with yourself. Write it in your appointment book and vow to keep it
  • plan something you (and your inner creative artist) would love to do
  • consider taking in a new exhibit at a local gallery, visiting a museum, going by yourself to a movie, visiting a greenhouse, or strolling through a park
  • it’s even better if you can include enjoying a light dinner or at least a fancy coffee and dessert by yourself at a local café.  This will give you time to process your experience (and maybe even write about it)

I hope you’ll try filling your own creative well by exploring a new creative modality and taking yourself on an artist’s date. I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Chances are, when you return to the blank page, the well you will be drawing from as you write will be even deeper.

Until next time,


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All drawings and artwork in this post were created by Janis McCallen.

4 comments Write a comment

  1. I love the sounds of your playfulness, Janis! It’s true, creativity tends to breed more, as does soulfulness. Sounds a bit like gardening, doesn’t it, where a beautiful flower produces hundreds of seeds for the next season. In this, you are encouraging wealth, pleasure, and endless playfulness. A great way to age! Thank you…

    • Andrea, what a beautiful image. I’ve just returned from the garden where I was admiring the emerging bloodroots; their bodies still cloaked in the curl of their leaves, while their bright white petal faces look skyward. The world needs our creativity and our soulfulness, and our gardens. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Janis

  2. The following post, “How Movement, Painting and Improvisation Can Enhance Your Writing | Writing From The Centre” reveals that u fully understand precisely what you’re writing about! I actually 100 % am in agreement. Thank you -Stan

    • Thank you for your comment. We’re glad that the post resonated, and that you also believe that engaging in other art forms can enhance one’s writing.

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