Body to Page: An Interview with Nomi Isak

Nomi Isak is the LA-based, award-winning writing coach and book editor (with over 35 books to her credit). She's created movement-based writing workshops for many organizations including UCLArts & Healing, UCLA Extension, and others.

In early 2017 we'll be teaming up to bring her workshop "From the Body to the Page" to Santa Barbara. Stay tuned for details!

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your background and what led you to running groups such as "From Your Body to the Page” and other embodiment-centered writing workshops?

Although I was a dancer and an athlete from a young age, I was encouraged by my intellectual family not to spend too much time in the murky depths of emotion and sensation—both of which are perceived in the body. When I ran or swam or danced, I was in my body; when I did school work or told stories (and later as a book editor and writer), I was in my head. I was taught to keep them separate. The result was a profound body-mind split, something I now recognize as prevalent in our Western culture. 

A severe trauma when I was 22 forced me to seek answers down avenues that strayed from mainstream Western culture—Tai Chi, Vipassana meditation, Integrative Body Psychotherapy. Thus began my journey of knitting together the body-mind split. 

A happy surprise of reclaiming my whole being was the discovery of a deep well of creativity in that place where body and mind meet. The depths of body intelligence are teeming with life. It’s a scintillating world that offers up stories and language unlike those created by the mind alone. Spending time there feeds my creative expression, and I find it truly satisfying to introduce others to that realm, as well.

Q: What is it about improvisational movement that helps writers? What are they getting with you that they wouldn't find in a traditional writing workshop?

In most writing workshops, you sit in one place for 2 to 3 hours. If writing takes place during the workshop, you’re given a prompt and the time to fish through your mind for whatever the prompt may stir up. Don’t get me wrong, beautiful things can find their way onto the page in this way. But I have found that the mind is only half the canvas, and only half the palette of colors. 

So much imagery, sensory information, and access to our emotional world lives in our bodies—there for the mining.  If we have a habit of waking up and sitting right down to our computer, we risk missing out on a whole other dimension of source material. When I’m doing regular moving meditations, even my dreams are richer. That’s the same place rich writing can come from.

Q: Can you give me an example of an exercise you might incorporate into the workshop we're planning for Santa Barbara in early 2017?

My workshops focus more on the process than the product, though there are plenty of gems that get unearthed along the way. I give you lots of space and time, as well as guidance, to drop your concerns with the outside world and find your way home to your body. We each carry within us all the tools we need to self-inspire and get past any blocks we may be experiencing. 

I acknowledge the writer as a whole being. Not a disembodied head, but a body-mind being with a vast realm of creativity far deeper than the mind itself. I use guided somatic (in the body) awareness, subtle movement, music, and sound to open doors into your creative depths. I intertwine embodiment practice with writing practice to free up stories and language that you might not otherwise access.

This type of embodiment works for anyone; there is no need to be a dancer or veteran mover. If you’ve got a body you qualify. It’s about working from wherever you are, with plenty of guidance and lots of permission. 

Working in this way tends to create a sense of community and mutual support. When participants share pieces they’ve written in class, others listen from a deep, receptive place. 

I feel truly honored every time I teach to witness the magic of this type of creative process.  

Learn more about Nomi Isak.