Dancing can teach you a lot about writing.

Waltzing and Writing

I chose the waltz metaphor for finishing and beginning to query my novel, very carefully.

A waltz looks beautiful, timeless, fluid, simple, even—one, two, three, one, two, three.  Dancing.  Story, telling, timeless.

What’s easy to miss, certainly I did when I committed to dancing with this particular story, is this: one, two, smash your toes.  One, kick your shin, three.  Twirl, stumble, fall, quit.  The music stops.  Starts again.

I’ve been dancing with a man named Earl in Woodbine, Iowa for thirteen years.

This day, I am on a chair with the Writer’s Market in my lap.  My husband, David, helped me write a query letter which he reads out loud and we both cry a little.  My writer friends help me edit the letter.

I choose a few people to send my story.  A story of hope and belief.  Maybe it matters more in this pandemic than it would have thirteen years ago.  These are thoughts that run around my mind.

Earl and I, we’ve figured out some kind of dance.  It might not be quite right, or as graceful as I’d hoped, and I know for a fact I have a lot of bruises from it, and I also know I am going to miss him (though he may show up on this blog now and then, along with some of the other characters).  It’s time for a new dance partner, like Truman from a young adult novel, who is putting on his shoes to dance again.

Here’s my waltzing tips, and god knows I am no expert, for bringing a story from beginning to end (no matter how many years!):

  1. Choose your dance partner carefully—make sure it is a story of your heart.
  2. Strap on your favorite dancing shoes and a skirt that swirls—I found that the pens, paper, and electronic gadgets motivate me in crafting a story and made me want to dance (and write!).
  3. Hold on to your partner tight, ignore the pain of the stomping and the kicking, practice and keep dancing, whatever you do—if this is a story of your heart, bring it around the bend.
  4. Deeply listen to the music, feel its beat, and let it into your heart—boom, boom, boom—words have rhythm and voice.
  5. Climb up above and watch the dancing, follow the patterns and motions across the floor, weep even, at all it took to bring you here, and then surrender to the next partner who wants to take your hand, “may I have this dance?” It’s time.

God-speed, Earl.