On Saturday I was lucky enough to attend a workshop on the fundamentals of Lindy Hop, run by the inspiring Shane McCarthy of Swing It! It was about how to lead movement from the core of our bodies, rather than from our limbs. How we should be travelling (in whatever direction) by keeping our centres over our legs, driving our momentum by pushing away from the ground, and not letting our bodies lag behind our feet.
Shane explained the concept perfectly in his workshop – unfortunately my synopsis does not do it justice here. Suffice to say, it is something I have been struggling to apply to my dancing since I started learning just over a year ago, and need to be mindful of.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, snug and inconveniently awake in bed, I was thinking about this concept in relation to something else I’ve been grappling with lately: trying to write a novel (hence the blog hiatus). Figuring that the only way to learn is by doing (and making lots of mistakes), I started on this marathon project last year, slowly scribbling away at the scenes I had carefully mapped out. It is every bit as difficult as I expected it to be – no surprises there.
Starfished in bed, I was reflecting on some writing tips Stephen King provides in his book On Writing: A Memoir, and on which most successful writers seem to agree: that the best stories are character-driven. If the central character(s) grows, they start to influence the course of the story, instead of the other way around. It should be the desires and decisions of the character(s) that propel the story forwards, not a pre-determined series of events (aka plotting). In other words, a good story is driven from its core – the central character.
I realised that in writing my first draft, I’ve made the fundamental mistake of getting too caught up in the ‘limbs’ of the story – trying to move it forward by using creative descriptions, twists and sub-plots, with splatterings of dialogue. In doing so I have lost sight of what should be moving it along: the main character, its core. I need to get back to the guts of the story, and work from the inside out. Which reminds me how vast the chasm sometimes is between knowing how to do something and being able to do it.
But I like this ‘moving from the core’ as a guiding philosophy. Often it’s easy to become distracted by what’s on the outside – the glossiness of life, social expectations, worrying about what other people think of us, or how we think we should be rather than what we are. In focussing on this myriad of external concerns, we neglect what is at the core of our being, the values that are important to us and that should be guiding our choices. I like the idea of moving forwards from our centres, deciding with our guts, and working from the inside out.
As for the writing, it’s back to the drawing board for me.