Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tap Dancing and Courageous Writers

Tap-dancing has much more embarrassment potential to a beginner than jazz dancing does. I know--I've been taking tap classes. Sometimes I wish those metal plates would fall off so that my missteps would not broadcast themselves to my fellow dancers. Sometimes I think I would have been better off in jazz dancing classes, where the shoes are soft and the missteps easier to cover. But jazz wouldn't have helped me as much with my writing as tap does.

Just as tapping on the wrong beat will call attention to my need to practice more, sharing my writing with a critique group makes my errant verbal beats public and undeniable, calling my attention to my need to revise. I used to keep my works-in-progress mostly to myself, until I felt they were ready for submission, and my soft-shoe approach allowed me to overlook what the tap-shoe approach--the public read-aloud in a critique group--would have made apparent. I wasted a lot of time by not tap-dancing as a writer and overpowering my own former insecurities.

Everyone in my tap dancing class can hear each other's missteps as we try out our new routines, just as my fellow writers can hear each other's mistakes loudly and clearly. Tap dancing has reinforced for me my need to goof up publicly without the ability to cover up with fancy footwork. Jazz dancers, with soft shoes, like writers who never share their work in a public way, can attempt to revise their errors and hope that no one notices. Tap dancers and courageous writers who share their works-in-progress can't take back the sounds they've emitted, and thus become more determined NOT to make the same errant sounds again.

When people ask me, "What on earth made you agree to take tap classes?," I answer, "It's a challenge--embarrassing sometimes, but actually fun. And, my writing critique partner talked me into it! She's very convincing."