When I was a child, I loved to dance. I’d blare the record player (yes we had record players when I was a kid) and boogie down. By myself. I could never let any another breathing soul witness my madness. But that was kind of the point—dance like no one’s watching. And that’s a lot easier to do when, well, when no one’s watching. ;)
I never took ballet, or tap, or anything like that. I was a tomboy. I’d have rather been outside fishing or riding dirt bikes, so every move I made through dance was in no way influenced by any real guidance. It was just me doing my own thing.
As I grew older, the whole dancing behind doors thing stopped. When I turned 18 and cast off the shackles of high school culture, friends and I started going out to night clubs where everyone was dancing, but by then, I questioned whether I ever really had rhythm at all. Yes, I loved to dance, but was I really dancing? And was it wise to do it in public now that my peers would possibly be critiquing my every move??
Bottom line was, I didn’t have confidence in my rhythm. Heck, I didn’t even know for sure if I had rhythm. Yes, I loved it, and yes I could kind of move to the music, but I wasn’t in the music like those really groovy dancers seemed to be—you know the ones who could just flow like a ribbon on the wind. So what did I do? I hung out on the dance floor sidelines and observed while I swayed, afraid to step foot on the actual dance floor, which looking back, was probably wise. I watched those dancers who could really get down and I knew I didn’t have what they had. Not even close. What I did know, though, is that I wanted it. I wanted rhythm so bad I could taste it. Which led me to ask, are people born with rhythm? Or do they discover it? Maybe a little of both? (sound familiar writers??)
It was the early 90s then, and I was living in a town with a thriving underground dance scene. Music was spun on records with a new sound that was blowing up the dance floors: house and techno beats mixed in with disco and alternative—all thumping the sound waves. I loved that music, but I wanted to be dancing to it. Real dancing. I wanted rhythm.
So what does any logical person do when she wants to achieve something? She studies it, practices it, lives it. I went to the clubs every weekend night and gradually I got better, until I wasn’t just a person trying to move to the music anymore, I was the music. I didn’t have to think about it. By the time I was 22, I could’ve easily auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance and (with a dash of luck) made it on the show (they didn’t have that show back then unfortunately.) Needless to say, I had found my rhythm.
You can see where I’m going with this and how it relates to writing. Whether we’re unpublished, traditionally published, indie … it doesn’t matter. What matters is that there comes a point when you know you’ve found your rhythm.
Writing is the same. Once I found my writing rhythm, writing became part of who I am as a person. As a child, I loved to write even more than I loved to dance. When I decided twenty-five years later to seriously take my story-telling and writing to the next level, I worried if I had what it takes. Just as I watched those kids with real rhythm from the sidelines of the dance floor, I read fiction that blew my mind and made me wonder if I could ever be as good.
And just like dancing, that true inner rhythm doesn’t come from only wondering. It comes from hours and hours of hands-on practice and determination. We have to know what it takes to get where we want to be. We have to know how to identify what’s good. Then we have to be willing to work for it. Maybe you’re still writing in the sidelines because you haven’t found your writing rhythm, and that’s okay, but know that to become the story and for writing to be part of who you are, you have to lose a little face, sacrifice easier pastimes, and be willing to look failure in the eyes and announce you will not back down. I'm still learning how to do that too.
Sorry for the loooong post today. I was just ... yanno, in the rhythm. ;)
How about you? Have you found yours? Or still in the sidelines? Please share ...