Friday, January 20, 2012

A Tough Act to Follow

By Kim

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was eight and have never wavered long from that dream. When my older daughter, then nine, discovered her own passion, I did what my parents did before me. I took her seriously and encouraged her to nurture and develop her natural talents.

My daughter at the barre. Photo by Deborah Downes
Over a year has passed since then and my aspiring ballerina is now enrolled at a school where she can get the serious training she craves. I have watched her transform into a poised and graceful young lady, confident in who she is and what she wants. She has also, unbeknownst to her, become my role model for how to pursue a dream, and she’s a tough act to follow. The lessons I’ve learned from her may seem basic common sense, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs reminding.

1) If you don’t actively chase a dream, it will forever remain a dream. It takes work to succeed. Learn to love work. Barre exercises are to a dancer what parking one’s rear end in a chair is to a writer. Both require focus and discipline. In this short video you will see a small group of dancers doing the same combination at the barre. Even an untrained eye can determine who wants to be there and who simply goes through the motions. (My daughter is directly in front of the camera – middle child along the barre at the back of the room–I wish I had her focus.)

2) Don’t be afraid of correction or feedback. It’s the only way to improve.

3) Find a teacher who will be honest about your weaknesses and guide you to overcome them, or at least not call attention to them.

4) You can’t join a company before learning how to dance en pointe. You can’t publish a novel if you never finish it.

5) If you dance, you are a dancer. If you write, you are a writer. It really is that simple.

6) If you don’t love it, do something else. If you do love it, don’t be satisfied doing anything else.

7) Dance (or write) because you can’t help yourself. Remember why you love what you do and don’t forget to have fun, as my children are in this video. (My kids are the shorter one in black and the little one in the blue and white dress .)

Do you struggle to live by any of these rules? We’d love to hear about it, especially if you have found a way to overcome them.


  1. You're so right, Kim, these are basic but sooo needed as reminders. I slip from being mindful of each of these on a regular basis. In the last few days I've been reminded of what brought me to this crazy-making writer's life. I do love the work, and I had forgotten how much fun it can be. What a spot on analogy! And what fun your little dancers are having!

  2. I found this site through Facebook, and although I've checked in now and again, this article caught my eye. I am in a serious rut but everywhere I look this message flashes before my eyes--park your rear end in the chair and write. Thank you for repeating it.

    Your daughter is fortunate to have a mother who understands that pursuing your dreams (early) is what it's all about.

  3. This is the perfect metaphor for the writing life! In the first video, those girls are doing the same moves over and over and over, practice practice practice - this isn't the exciting part, this isn't the part that is all happy go lucky - this is the discipline hard work part and it's what some people do not realize/recognize about dance(writing). So when they find out there what it takes to be a great or good or decent even dance(writer), they may drop out.

    But, there are other times when there is this great joy, this abundance of happy, this YAY! YIPPEE WHEEEEEE~! Just dancing for the sheer joy and happy of it all. Joyous!

    By the way, I think I do some of those moves in the second video on my treadmill *laughing* one day I'm going to bust me arse.

  4. Vaughn - thank you so much for forwarding on the link and for commenting here. I forget these rules a lot and get distracted from what I really want to be doing.

    Kimberly - thank you so much for stopping and for your kind words! I'm glad my daughter was born into a family who understands the creative drive. But I also feel very lucky to have children who "get" me, too!

    Kathryn - I am so glad you popped over here. You should firm yourself doing those moves! I can't dance. Not at all. I don't know where they got it!

  5. This post speaks to me on so many levels. As someone who "sat" on my English degree since graduating in 1995...I'm only 11 days into the "Forcing Myself To Write" project and so aware of how this process feels beautiful and painful all at once. Even though you say you can't dance, your words ARE en pointe and will twirl across my mind as reminders of why it's not a dream until you go after it. ((((Thank you))))
    Dragon Fly

  6. Thank you so much, Dragon Fly! I'm glad you found the post inspiring. Writing is indeed both beautiful and painful, but I wouldn't be happy doing anything else. :-)


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