Finding My Groove, Keeping my Rhythm

When I stepped out onto the dance floor last week, I knew there would be trouble. I hadn’t danced in years, so I was completely out of practice in the art letting loose.

Through the fog and colored lights, I eyed up the DJ: young, serious, mohawk. I saw him survey the crowd. Then, he scratched out a song I didn’t know. Even before moving an inch, I began to perspire.

I could have used a drink, but the hardest liquor to slide across the bar that night was a regular Mountain Dew, straight up. I was left to my own non-rhythmic devices. I started at the hips. Left, left, right. Right, right, left. I pivoted my toes in an effort to twist into the beat, but my groove was stopped short by my boots and their rubber soles.

Note to self: a non-slip sole crushes all dignity when dancing.

The dance floor filled up with younger, looser-hipped bodies. My eyes widened, my shoulders stiffened, and I smiled as if I were in pain. I limited my dance moves to two square feet of space, hoping not to be noticed. But as each arm locked into an L-position and alternated from front to back, my hips jolted. I danced the Robot without any intention of doing so.

I was out of practice and I was a lost cause. After forty-five minutes and several “water breaks,” my shoulders relaxed. But, it wasn’t until the DJ put on an old Digital Underground tune that I finally shook out my inhibitions.

And, once I found the beat, I forced myself to stay out on the floor. I danced even when I felt like an idiot, because I knew that a quick slip to the water table would stop me long enough to hear the committee in my head. They would downplay my courage for stepping onto the dance floor in the first place. They would convince me to sit down and stop sweating for a while.

“Give it up,” they would heckle.

My experience on the dance floor mirrored my life in writing lately. This week I let up on my daily word exercises, just a bit, all for good reason. When I finally sat down to my computer again, it took me forever to find my rhythm. That brief respite from the daily exercise of writing caused me to lose my footing. My hands were still long enough so that my inner-critic, and her possy, stepped up to the microphone. I listened to their notions of doubt. I questioned each vote of confidence I’ve received from friend or colleague. I took too long to pick up the pen again, to write that blog post, to open up that novel draft.

I signed on for Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s 500 words a day challenge for a reason. I wanted a daily accountability system to use as I reworked my novel. Now, those 500 words a day become even more valuable as they keep my mind loose, my hands oiled, and my creative self  practiced in the art of letting words fly.

About the dancing, well…I decided that when I turn 40, I’m really cutting loose. I have approximately seven months to work up my nerve.

***

Digital Underground: The Humpty Dance

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16 responses to “Finding My Groove, Keeping my Rhythm

  1. Doin’ the Humpty Hump! My long time hero and writing guru once told me, “The only people making fun of you for dancing are the ones too scared to dance.” I’d say it goes for us writing folks too. It’s tough to keep a well-oiled machine, but worth the effort. P.S. I have a hard time dancing without a little grease.

  2. Great analogy! I admire your courage to get on the dance floor and to get back to writing!

  3. Your description is so funny, I can’t completely focus on the analogy. …the committee in my head … “Give it up,” they would heckle.

    It is a perfect analogy!

    • I’m glad the description came off well. I have to say, I was moving as I was writing, trying to put my actions into words! We writers must look ridiculous sometimes when we’re in the middle of a story….

  4. Good for you on the dancing and the writing!

    It feels like ages since I’ve written more than a blog post. So unlike me. Today, I have critiquing that needs done, but tomorrow, I’m cracking the whip. I wonder how long it will take me to warm up.

    • My job today is to crack open that novel draft again and decide which scene I want to use for the beginning :)

      And, for you, tomorrow…why not turn up your favorite tune before you sit down to type. Maybe a little dancing jig will loosen up the creative juices!

      • Which scene you want to use for the beginning? You too?

        I’m blaming my indecision on Tricia. She told me to enter a contest and now I’m not sure I’ve started my novel with the right scene. I may be writing a whole new first chapter tomorrow!

        • I initially liked the beginning well enough. But since I started my rewrite, I keep getting stuck on that first chapter – too much description? not enough action? ugh.

          Reading about great beginnings and the dos and don’ts of fiction help and hinder that process.

          I have a novel workshop in April that will hopefully provide insight into whether or not I should keep the beginning as is. For now, I want to get past the first three chapters and dig into the meat of the story.

  5. I wish I had been to more dances whose strongest drink was Mountain Dew. Funny how when we drink we think we can dance. I’ve even written after a few drinks, thinking I was Dorothy Parker’s clone, only to find the next day it looked a little more like Elmer Fudd writing like he talks.

  6. Dorothy Parker – no, Elmer Fudd. That’s great :) Sounds like beer goggles for writers: too many drinks and we stare dreamily into the computer screen. I’ve been there. Thanks for the laugh!

  7. About deciding to cut loose when you turn 40, it may just happen. 40 was a good year for me, and a lot changed without my even deciding, or maybe I should say that the ways in which I changed and my life changed as as result weren’t things I decided, or was even aware of, consciously.

    As for getting into the meat of the story after the first three chapters, if you’re stuck, why not start your rewrite(s) at the beginning of chapter 4?

  8. The only dancing I do these days is in the kitchen with my kids. Yes the hips don’t move like they used to. I get winded so much faster. But it’s a great time. My 2yo is a heck of a dancer.

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