Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Dancing...writing. Same thing, right?
As you know, Saturday night was AC’s first dance recital. She did great (as great as a four-year-old can do), and has been bitten by the bug. The diva in her has found an outlet, and she can’t wait for the next one.
As her mom, I am as proud as proud could be. I even got a little teary-eyed as she made her entrance. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to dance. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until Saturday night.
But it was a surreal experience. In my entire life, I’ve been a true audience member for recitals and ballets only a few times. Most of the time, I watched the action on stage from the wings, waiting for my entrance. Sometimes, if I had a long enough break, I could sneak up to the balcony and watch for a while, but that was rare. If, for some strange reason I wasn’t dancing that night, I would be in the audience (but never in the good seats—those were for the paying folks), but I still knew everyone on stage. Being “just another mom in the audience” was really strange.
(And I know my mom was feeling it as well. This was the first time she’d sat through a recital when I wasn’t dancing. She wasn’t running backstage between acts to help me change. She didn’t know 90% of the kids on stage because she’d shuttled them all over town or had them eat her out of house and home every weekend. It had to have been weird to have AC coming out of the wings instead of me…)
So, I’ve been thinking about dance most of the weekend. There’s a list on the bulletin board above my desk that one of my high school friends sent to me called “Everything I needed to know, I learned in ballet.” Over the last couple of months, I’ve looked at it and realized that what I learned in ballet also applies to my new dream of writing books. So to tie my dancing mood to the blog, I give you “Everything I need to know about writing I learned from ballet.”
1.) Balance is vital. (You have to keep any one part of the story from overwhelming another. You also have to balance writing with the thousand other things in your life. Like dance recitals.)
2.) Timing really is everything. (Getting published is sometimes a matter of getting the right book into the hands of the right editor at just the right moment in time. That’s a bit trickier than remembering you step on the two, not the one.)
3.) Nothing is magic, or flawless. (Take one of your favorite books. There may be a typo that slipped through. But there’s probably also a passage that the author isn’t quite happy with. But it’s still a great book.)
4.) Fancy tricks can’t make up for sloppy technique. (The best, most compelling plot in the universe can’t make up for bad writing. Great ideas can only get you so far; you still have to study your craft and nail down the basics of strong technique.)
5.) Anything that looks easy usually isn’t, but hard work pays off. (That beautiful paragraph of description that made you feel like you were there? That perfect retort that popped out of the heroine’s mouth? That took a lot longer to write than it did for you to read it.)
6.) Practice makes better. (No one is perfect. But working hard will make you better at what you do.)
7.) Listen to teachers, then work hard. (Read all the craft books; go to the workshops. At some point, you have to actually take that theory and put it into practice.)
8.) Looking at yourself in a mirror all the time does weird things to you. (Yeah, like give you an eating disorder—wait, sorry, we’re talking about writing. You can revise all the spark out of a book by rereading it over and over again. And don’t compare yourself to the others you see next to you in that mirror. Write your book the best way you can with your own spark in it.)
Okay, I can only push this analogy so far…I can’t make the last two items on the list work. But you get my point, right?
I was told once to “dance like nobody’s watching.” There’s a freedom to doing what you love simply because you love it. But the whole point is that you want an audience. But nobody in the audience wants to see the ballerina sweat. No one wants to see the bleeding toes or know that her knee has her in physical therapy twice a week. They want to see the magic. But the magic only comes from hard work. And if you love something, you should be willing to put in the effort.
So, go. Work hard. Make magic.