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.