AKA How My Lame Dancing Skills Applies to Writing Well
We all come programmed to have fears. I’ll tell you mine: spiders, dancing in front of people, the popping of crescent dough rolls when you open them (I hoover in the corner, cover my ears, and make my boys open them. Yes. For real.) And fear of not leaving a big enough mark in this world.
I’ve only overcome just one of those.
Well sort of. I’m still working on it. I used to be afraid of dancing in front of people. There’s a few earned reasons. Number one- I got kicked out of my clogging class when I was a little girl. No one wants an echo shuffle in a clogging class. Number 2- I might look funny in front of others. And that, my friends, I call just plain old dumb pride. Stops you dead in your tracks.
Good enough reasons.
One of the most common fears that people have is fear of failure. I think it is the underlying fear of most of our fears (I most definitely do not want to fail at squishing a spider or not being able to successfully open the crescent dough can for dinner… ok maybe not that one).
Here’s a few things I’ve learned about my failed dancing moments that apply to writing and overcoming our fears of failure. Just let me get one thing straight though. You are going to fail. And it’s going to be your awesome stepping stone to success.
Practice, Practice, Practice
So. My clogging class was not the only time I ever tried dancing. I paid to go to a dance camp. Whew. That was the biggest mistake in my life. I had only perfected the undercover dancing at high school dances. You know what I’m referring to… the wiggling that looks like you’re dancing but you’re not. There’s the slight head and hip bobbing coupled with tiny knee bopping. I was the master at this lame dance.
I had no clue how to really dance. So, when I went from undercover dancing to hip hopping and slip swishing the cha- cha. My brain and feet got all tangled up.
I tried a couple of other simple dance classes. All of them ending in a disappointed chick. So I can’t dance. And I contemplated squeezing my eyes shut to dancing dilemma forever until… much, much, later in life.
My friends started group dating and invited us to the annual Valentines dance in our little town. Every year we went. My husband and I just participating in the slow dances. That was easy.
I got brave. I got brave because I learned that I wasn’t the only one who felt funny busting a move. It was obvious some just had the dancing knick-knack in their sack but most of my friends didn’t. We could dork out the moves together.
For months I would practice in front of a mirror. Did I look as stupid as I thought I did? The answer was yes by the way. I loosened up with the Wii Dance game. It taught me some slick tricks. Go ahead laugh. I started bee-bopping in the kitchen. I would close the blinds and practice. I was building my confidence. I was secretly dancing at home before I publicly made my first debut.
Writers Need to Practice, Practice, Practice
And the same thing happened as a writer. I paid for my 1st writing workshop. I found myself dancing with big wig writers that are smooth and quick and their skills seem effortless. I had no clue how to really write. So I went from undercover writing to big plotting, and mapping, and scrapping my whole idea as a writer.
My brain and fingers got all tangled up.
But I wasn’t alone. I found writers with the same frustrations, the same embarrassing down falls, the same feelings of learning and mastering the skill of writing. Then a friend invited me, an undercover writer, to participate with her in the annual NanoWriMo. It wasn’t long though, until I started writing in the kitchen, I loosened up with pre writing games and all those slick tricks. I was secretly writing before I made my first public debut.
It would be a long time before that ever happened.
But, the constant practicing of writing made me crave more writing. All of this practicing was building my confidence. And though my 1st real attempt was a disaster. I just couldn’t let go of the passion for writing.
Just like I was discovering what dancing was all about.
Ignore Cock-Eyed Looks
Ok. So maybe my 1st break out dance wasn’t as beautiful as I planned in my head. Well, there’s no maybe about that. I still remember my long hair somehow flailing above my head. Yes, above it. It swirled and swished and… oh I wished I would have chosen a different dance move.
I looked like a complete dork.
Embarrassing. But… incredibly fun!
I was tired of playing it safe on the sidelines. Watching everyone else having fun at the dances. I was tired of studying their moves and hoping for the same outcome. I could study them all I wanted and nothing would ever come of it. Do you know why?
I was playing it safe.
I was only playing it out in my head. Trying to get better by thinking about it. I wasn’t taking any risks in looking like a dork. I wasn’t risking the fact that maybe busting a move would bust up my neighbor. I love making people smile- even at my own terrible expense. I was observing everything I wanted to do and playing it flawlessly in my head while my feet napped through the whole process.
I was living a virtual dancing world. It was time to break out of it. In my head it was perfect, smooth, and cool. In real life it was off beat, rocky, and so very not cool. And there were some cock-eyed looks.
And it makes me laugh now. A grown woman flailing about like that.
Oh… are you so embarrassed for me?
Writers Get Cock Eyed Looks Too
It’s fine. I don’t mind telling you how terrible it was. Because you know what, that’s how writing was for me at first. I remember the first real writing contest I entered.
I studied and learned proper moves of writing but I never really put myself out there. I was playing it safe. I only let myself read my writings. I wasn’t getting any better by keeping it to myself. I wasn’t taking any risks so I decided to enter a real contest. The virtual world of writing came out perfect, smooth, and cool. In real life it was off beat, rocky, and not as cool as I imagined it to be. Meh. And I got some cock-eyed comments from the judges.
I got a really low score on my sample. The judges didn’t like it at all. There were 3 judges. In fact they remarked how they didn’t realize what was going on until the end. It was a short 150 word writing piece.
At first it disappointed me.
But after letting that disappointment simmer for a week or more I realized something very important. I had just received the best compliment I could get. I didn’t want them to know what was going on until the end of the piece. I had purposely dragged them along to surprise them at the end. I realized I did exactly what I wanted to do.
And that little failure inspired me to keep writing. So what if a grown woman was flailing about like that? What if her words were all over the place, getting cock-eyed looks?
My failure wasn’t a sign to give up but a signal that I was doing something right with my writing. Maybe it wasn’t the most masterful writing (I can see that now) but the element of truth that I was doing exactly what I was trying to do was exactly the kick start I needed.
If you can pick up the positivity in your failing moment then you draw a strength from it. Find it. It’s there. But don’t give up because it doesn’t end up exactly the way you played it out in your head.
Learn To Feel The Beat
So with time I never really “mastered” dancing, per se. But, I mastered the art of enjoying what I was doing. I learned to relax and let my body to feel the beat of the music, to not let my head get so much in the way of what I was doing. I let my heart drive the moves. I learned to not necessarily follow the master dancers (I couldn’t keep up) but to boogie to my own beat. I toned down the craziness and honed in on just feeling the beat. My beat. I love it.
I didn’t care so much if I didn’t catch on so fast. No one could kick me out but myself. And I wasn’t going to kick myself out. I stopped caring if I looked funny in front of others. Looking funny was stretching and growing moments.
But most of all, I was having fun: writing and dancing.
So go ahead flail around, go crazy, and have fun. Look like a dork. Get a few cock-eyed looks and know that you are headed for success. Because those that just study writing never become the master of writing. Put yourself out there. Overcome your fears of not making it and looking funny. Get out there and dance.
(And just for the record. There’s no way I’m even going to attempt to master my fears of spiders. Not a chance.)
Christie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing, blogging, and is a nonfiction junkie. Her stage 4 cancer doesn’t knock down her passion for life and writing. Not a chance. A couple of magazines have published her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her on her blog at howperkyworks.com.