I’m a huge fan of dancing shows. Whether it’s celebrities, street kids, fledgling amateurs or professionals, I love dancing shows. I marvel at the artistry, the physical prowess, and try to bullshit my kids into thinking I once could dance kinda similar to that when I was a young lass. In the Age of Disco, my friends, everyone thought they could dance.
My favorite show is So You Think You Can Dance. The contestants are chosen from all genres of dance, including hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, ballroom and street dance. It’s amazing how talented these mere babies are (let’s face it, I have socks older than most of these kids.) Once chosen for the show, the contestants are then paired up with each other, and they pick a style of dance from a hat. For instance, you’ll have a classically trained ballroom dancer paired up with a gangsta hip-hop dude, and they’ll have to dance a contemporary routine.
(There is a point to this post, bear with me.)
The show is looking for “America’s favorite dancer”, not necessarily the best technical dancer. The American people call in and vote, and they’re the ones that choose their favorite.
With me so far?
Watching these dancers stepping out of their comfort zone and taking on all the different technical requirements for each dance was inspiring, to me. I couldn’t help but correlate it to the writing world. I watched two classically UN-trained dancers make it to the Final Two, after not only shining in their chosen genre (hip-hop, can you dig it) but excelling in the very dances they were NOT trained for.
Correlation? You might consider yourself an amateur writer. You might consider yourself only suited to one genre: romance, biography, spec-fic, mystery, web copy, essay, journalism, horror – but if you can write, why let a label stop you from attempting something different? The great thing about creative endeavors is – there is no limit! Just try it. If it doesn’t interest you, or you’re not happy with the results, so what? You’ll learn something in the doing, even if it’s realizing writing cookbooks or an epic fantasy really isn’t your bag.
A good place to start on your journey of self-discovery is flash fiction. (You had to know that was coming.) With flash, you can experiment without a commitment to a larger work you are loathe to discard because of the time involved. You can play with technique, hone your cutting skills, and practice your re-writing without losing a lot of time. Say you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes and you’re itching to write a mystery. Instead of plotting out an outline and detailing chapters of your story, investing hours and days (maybe even months) only to find writing mysteries takes something you don’t really have, try writing a short story or a flash piece first and see if the genre fits you. See if you are suited to the dance, or if the dance is suited to you.
This is not to say a flash piece doesn’t take a lot of time to write, although I’ve found the most time is spent in honing the piece. “Dead Line” was about a year from conception to the final version, and I’m not sure what I have is the final version. From that piece I’ve learned I love to read spec-fic, and I love to write it. But it does not come easy to me and I have to work on it very hard. When I do, occasionally I produce a gem among the many pebbles.
With flash fiction, I have been able to explore autobiography, horror, erotica, fantasy and even romance (nix on the romance – I not only killed the cowboy, I killed the horse he rode in on!) I’m not done exploring, and I’m having a blast while pushing my boundaries and finding what works the best for me. I’m a writing-work-in-progress, and that’s only one of the things I love so much about writing.
I may never be able to krump or dance the tango, but I do think I can write. Watching these amazing people on So You Think You Can Dance reminded me to be open to other opportunities within my chosen career. It reminded me there’s a lot more out there to learn and master, and it reminded me that technical prowess in only one area can extend to many others…if you only reach.