Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dancing with the Words

I love Dancing with the Stars. It's one of my guilty pleasures. Watching the couples elegantly dip and sway, spin and turn, and glide across the floor--or gyrate across the floor, doing things I couldn't do even when I was young enough to do them--fascinates me. It makes me whimsical and wistful with the longing to dance like they do.

But it isn't just the beautiful, effortless dancing that draws me in. It's the behind-the-scenes clips of the work involved in making the dance beautiful and effortless.

In some room somewhere, with windows along one wall, and a barre mounted to a mirror along the other, these men and women sweat, fall, curse, cry, get up and start all over again. They're dressed in their scrubbiest clothes, sometimes in their dance shoes, sometimes in street shoes. The women don't have makeup on and their hair is usually pulled carelessly out of the way.

And they work. Do the same steps over and over until they get them right. String the steps together into the components of the choreography, stream those components into the dance itself, and practice. And practice, and practice.

Often, sixty hours a week go into making one three-minute performance look easy, like anyone can jump from the sofa and dip and sway and gyrate, just like they do on TV.

But of course, they can't.

Any form of art takes work and practice, which is why it always strikes me as funny when someone says they're going to sit down and write a book and "become a famous author!"

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes. In some room somewhere, with or without windows, with or without a mirror, authors study and write and edit and rewrite. All so the book the reader holds in his hands can seem like an effortless flow of words into a gripping story--like anyone can jump up from the sofa and write a story just like it.

The more I've learned about what goes into "good" writing, the harder it has become. Whenever I feel I've mastered some aspect, I'm challenged with another. What goes into writing a novel is no easier than what goes into that Monday night performance. They both take work.

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  1. Awesome post, and I can SO commiserate! "The more I've learned about what goes into 'good' writing, the harder it has become." Isn't that the TRUTH! Sometimes I need to almost physically remind myself to HAVE FUN. :)

  2. Great post - and great comparison. For all the scrubby clothes and the cursing and the crying, my bet is that most of those dancers *love* the behind the scenes work. That's what keeps them going, just like it does me as an author.

  3. @Nona--I should take your tip and physically remind myself to have fun. I admit, sometimes I linger over the wig catalogs, just in case I actually do pull my hair out someday. . .

    @Katie--'fess up, girl. You're in it for the bunny shoes you can wear at work. :D

  4. Okay, okay, but they're fuzzy blue slippers, actually. ;)

  5. Finally catching up on my blog reading, and just saw this one. You are so right, Linda. Even those blessed with natural talent in whatever creativity, must work to perfect it. I remember reading an interesting quote. A famous pianist is reputed to have said, "After one day of no practice, I notice. After two days, my agent notices. After three days, the audience notices." Never forgot those words.