In early March, I took my daughter to a dance workshop given by some top dancers from New York City. Since it was held in a downtown hotel ballroom, I didn’t want to just drop her off. I resigned myself to sitting on the sidelines and watching my daughter and some fifty other dancers learn from the best. Since my laptop doesn’t hold its charge, I grabbed a notebook and pen, but didn’t really plan on getting any work done. I tend to be chatty with the other parents and I knew I wouldn’t be able to think straight with music booming over the speakers. I chalked it up as a lost work day.
Ah…the things we do for our children.
As Janet Jackson’s song Escapade cranked in the background, I heard the instructor—his voice amplified by a microphone—say, “What separates the good from the great are the details.” I froze and spun around to face the stage. That sounds familiar. He explained the specific placement of your arms and legs while you dance separates the good from the great dancers. How many times have you heard that details make your writing?
I grabbed my notebook and pen and made a note, then another and another. Wow, the dance instructors had some great advice that I needed to take to heart for my writing. Here’s what I took away while observing my daughter’s dance workshop:
Jazz Instructor: (paraphrasing) Smart dancers are practicing on the sides while the other dancers have the stage.
Takeaway: The only way you are going to get better at writing is to practice, practice, practice. Eventually you’ll get your shining moment, but for now, head down, hands on keyboard. Don’t just sit there and watch (or think about writing). You need to write.
Jazz Instructor: You’re not supposed to be perfect in class. If you can do everything perfectly, you’re in the wrong class
Takeaway: Don’t be a perfectionist. Stretch your abilities. Allow yourself to explore outside your comfort zone because that’s the only way you’ll grow as a writer. If your writing is easy, maybe you’re not working hard enough.
Jazz Instructor: Strong Ending!
Takeaway: Enough said, right? They say the ending of your book sells your next book. Leave the reader so impressed, she’ll go searching for your next book, or your previous one.
Hip Hop Instructor: Let it all go. Feel the beat of the song. Feel the soul, the heartbeat. There are thousands of other people’s versions of this dance. All of it starts with a heartbeat/drumbeat.
Takeaway: Only you can write your book at this exact moment. Write it from your heart!
Hip Hop Instructor: What are we going to do? Have fun!
Takeaway: I think it would be awesome to have cheerleaders with a microphone standing in the corner of our office reminding us to have fun. Write! You can do it. Aren’t we having fun?! Go! You’ve almost made your word count.
Hip Hop Instructor (Some girls were asked to stay and dance while the rest had to watch from the sidelines): People on the sidelines must be supportive of those who are dancing. Those on the sidelines who keep dancing will be around forever. Make sure you cheer for each other.
Takeaway: I think romance writers are the greatest cheerleaders. I would not have made my first sale if not for fellow writers critiquing my work, giving me advice and cheering me on. I do everything I can to pay it forward, too. I equate the sidelines with those who are unpublished. If you keep writing and keep learning, you’ll eventually get your turn on the floor as a published writer. And if you keep writing and keep learning, you’ll have a long career.
Tap Instructor: Stay focused and positive. (He then did a call & response where he did a fast tap combination and then the dancers had to follow.) Don’t copy me, but copy my sounds.
Takeaway: Don’t listen to all the gloom and doom about the world of publishing. It can only mess with your confidence. Read a lot. Get a feel for the type of book you want to write. When you do finally get to the business of writing, don’t copy your favorites. Get a sense of the general tone of your favorite genre and add your own spin on it.
Tap Instructor: Clap for yourself.
Takeaway: Give yourself credit where credit is due. How many people claim they’d like to write, but never actually do? You’re doing it. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Tap Instructor: Throw it out there. Don’t even think about it… Every time I turn on the music, you’re going to show me something. I don’t care how silly it looks.
Writing: Get the story down on paper. Allow yourself the freedom to write that messy first draft. You can fix it later. Just get it down.
I left my house early Saturday morning thinking it was a lost writing day. I ended the day realizing as writers we have to be open and receptive to everything around us. Even in a perfect world, I think our writing would suffer if we never left our writing caves. We need to refill the well. I refilled it with some unexpected tips from NYC dance instructors.
It was fun to hear how dancers—a different creative art form—also draw from the same type of inspiration. My daughter came away from her day-long workshop fired up to dance. I left motivated to write—and quite frankly, wishing I knew how to dance!
Be open to inspiration in everything you do!
Alison Stone graduated with a degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech. After working in Corporate America for a number of years, she retired to raise her young family. Soon the writing bug bit. After years of conferences, critique groups and writing, Alison sold two manuscripts that will be released in 2012. To learn more about Alison Stone please visit www.AlisonStone.com. She can also be found on Twitter (@Alison_Stone) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AlisonStoneAuthor). Her blog can be found at http://alisonstone.wordpress.com/.
Second chances can have a terrible sense of timing.
As a child, watching her mother always pick the wrong man left Danielle Carson wary of opening her heart to anyone—except Patrick Kingsley. But circumstances came between them and left Danielle with a broken heart. Now she buries the pain of what might have been by channeling all her energy into her career. When a family crisis brings her back to her hometown, she is forced to face the past—and the disturbing fact that her sister’s car accident was staged to mask a brutal beating.
A police officer and widower, Patrick guards his heart as fiercely as he guards his beloved daughter. Seeing Danielle again unexpectedly reignites their old flame, but no way will he introduce a woman into his daughter’s life. Certainly not one whose values on faith and family are so different from his own.
Despite their best intentions, they are drawn together—until Danielle learns Patrick had a hand in putting her sister in harm’s way. Her fragile trust is crushed, but Patrick is the only man who can help her stop the villain before everything they both love is destroyed. Faith, family…and their second chance at forever.
Random Acts available at:
Samhain Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble