Shaun Levin

Writing Is Dancing

In Writing, Writing Workshops on August 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

There is a natural progression from writing to painting to dancing. Watch the hands move as you write or type and then make the gestures more expansive, make the space you fill bigger, move your hands in the air, pick up a brush, paint, but keep moving your hands, move your body, move your feet and you’re dancing. Sometimes I think that it’s that dancing energy, that fluid movement in the world, the longing to fly, that we try and distill back into our writing, that somehow writing is a distillation of movement in the world, that to writing is the opposite of… I almost said life, and maybe that’s what I should have said.

To write is to stop. To stop moving in the world, to stop interacting, to stop, even, procrastinating, putting off the writing itself, and yes, a lot of energy goes into that, a lot of writing time, or what could be writing time, goes into avoiding writing. Writing is a screeching to a halt; most of the frantic and frenetic movement happens in our head. Sometimes, of course, it is not like that and writing is a relief and an oasis and a good place to go to, even daily, because there are periods in my life – I say periods, but it’s more like a few days; if I’m lucky, weeks – when I turn up to write every day, when it is part of a daily movement, when “Writing” doesn’t feel like a chasm or an unearned luxury or the most terrifying thing to do.

Sometimes we have to live and not write. Some of us are better at writing than living. So when there is not much writing happening, it feels like the whole of life is meaningless, disrupted, fragile. Of course, the only cure for this is to write. Sometimes a workshop helps. I went to a workshop recently and I relished the time we had to write and I smiled to myself when things that I liked came out, whole sentences that I knew I’d be able to use in The Book.

It was a dancing and writing workshop. We danced for a bit, then wrote for a bit, then took a break, and when we came back, we did the same again. I didn’t love the dancing bits. They felt too prescriptive, too much like hard work, but it also made me think how some of the stuff we were doing was, for other people there, quite basic. I don’t follow instructions well, and there were a lot of instructions about breathing and this foot and that foot and left and right. However, when we got to the writing, I was so desperate to write, gagging to write, that my pen didn’t want to stop moving on the page. What a relief to be writing again, what a relief to be able to dance the way I know how, or at least in a way I feel comfortable. To dance on the page, to move around, to be silly, playful, to fly, to pirouette. Writing is where we can do everything and anything, be anything, be everything.

I think life can give us a hunger for writing. The fuller our lives the hungrier we are to write, the more we have to bring to the page. I’m not sure if that’s true. It sounds like it could be. Just having a relationship, any relationship, is enough to feel one’s life is full. I think reading can provide that… a good book is worthy, healthy company. A good book makes us want to go off and write. A good book makes us feel that we, too, can dance on the page. A good book is like a good writing instruction, a good prompt… it gives us instructions without saying anything… instructions by osmosis. At the moment I am reading Dany Laferriere’s Why Must a Black Writer Write about Sex?

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