Of all the people in the world, a fiction writer seems to be one of the least qualified to tell you to live in your body. Especially one who works as a computer geek. I spend my work and play hours on a computer, sitting down and trying to avoid numb-butt syndrome by stretching every now and then. I type 119 words per minute without any particular effort. I can tell when a graphic-in-progress in Photoshop is a pixel or two off. I’m a certifiable dork.

Who am I to ask if you’re present in your physical flesh?

Since we’re asking questions, how about this one: If you’re writing any sort of physical motion, how will you describe how it feels if you haven’t lived as a spine-flexing, muscle-contracting, blood-pumping body?

Everyone knows that writers can and do write things they haven’t personally experienced. “Write what you know” is a common adage, seemingly in contradiction to our immense imaginations. Take them both in moderation and consider this: how different would a short story about drag-racing be if the author had never even gotten his driver’s license? How would you write about a long cross-country journey if you’ve never walked through the woods? Sure, research and second-hand stories are great, but do they really replace personal experience?

Stephen R. Boyett wrote a great article about The One True Thing. He writes fantasy, but he gathers as much real-life experience pertaining to that fantasy as possible, so that he can include genuine details that make the unbelievable a little more real. Tiny things like road signs, the oft-overlooked decorations on large buildings, and that one tree that juts up from that hill over there when you’re driving down the highway. As a result of these True Things, his readers can suspend disbelief all the more easily.

And, really, can you write a story without ever having a physical body moving?

Are you present enough in your own skin to make it believable?

Give me the one true thing. The sudden rush of heat following a sharp pain; the sensitivity of your fingertip when a long nail is suddenly chopped short; the itch of a necklace chain on your collarbone. Make me believe that your character is just as alive as me – even if he’s the farthest thing from human you can get.

Live it, and let your stories benefit from your life.