How to Dance Like a Writer

by Susan Woodring

First deny everything. You are not a writer. You are not a dancer. You are not, in fact, dancing. You have never exposed yourself in any way or tried to do anything. You are safe in your bed, dreaming. You haven’t risked a thing. You are not this creature, sputtering about. You don’t even know this person.

Wait for a full moon. We all look more beautiful under that reflected space, and our movements are more graceful. Full moons are generous and seductive: exactly what you need at this moment.

Close your eyes. Listen. Turn the thinking part of your brain off. Light up all your senses.

Treat it like a metaphor. You are a butterfly fluttering, something colorful and bright and fleeting.

A spinning top. A bobbing chicken. Wild gypsy.

You are your worst sentence languishing alone in a spectacular display. (Lesson: do not deny your craggiest sentences their right to exist, however unsatisfying and, ultimately, short-lived that existence may be. To deny your most bumbled attempts is to deny the trying, which, of course, cheapens the whole thing.)

You are your best sentence, unfurling across a magic-lit darkness.

Only dance with other writers. This is the most practical piece of advice I can offer. You can find bad dancers in any walk of life. You can even find unrepentant bad dancers. But only writers understand that you are not you. That this, this spastic trying, is not you.

They will also know that, yes: this is exactly who you are. You, underneath everything else. You, hustling, walking like an Egyptian, Cupid shuffling. You are a dance dance dance dancing machine.

Albert Einstein spent his whole life trying to understand the nature of light. He began one afternoon when he was sixteen years old, watching sunlight glance off a lake.

You will spend your whole life trying to understand the nature of light. (We mean light in every sense of the word: light, as in lacking in weight; light as in a way to turn an idea or a person or a situation in your hand until you see it—really see it—for the tiniest of moments; light as in a certain buoyancy of soul; light as in that mass-less, un-understandable entity hurtling endlessly across space, bouncing about, illuminating, reflecting.)

You begin every morning, before dawn. You carry it with you: this need to understand.

Understand. Light. Moonlight, your current medium.

Approach the DJ. (He is generous, like the moon.) Request the songs of your youth. In this way, you might return. Dancing is a time machine. It will help you undo everything, if just for this moment.

Treat it like a simile. You are like an ocean, monstrous and swollen. You are going to live forever. You feel it coming together.

Exhale. Gyrate. Spin. Dance the night away. You should be dancing, yeah. You should be dancing, yeah.


Susan Woodring

Susan Woodring

Susan Woodring is the author of the novel, Goliath (St. Martin’s Press, 2012) and a short story collection, Springtime on Mars (Press 53, 2008).  Her short fiction has appeared in The Cupboard, Passages North, turnrow, Literary Mama and Surreal South, among other anthologies and literary magazines. Her short fiction was shortlisted for Best American Non-Required Reading 2008 and Best American Short Stories 2010. Susan currently lives in the foothills of North Carolina where she writes and homeschools her two children.

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