Oscar Wilde once said, “The beauty we get from art is not what we learn from it; it is what we become through it”. One of the most powerful effects dance, and writing, is that they allow us to transpire from our current physical states into something transcendental and transformational; for just a moment, we are suspended outside of our own reality, and into the magic of art. Sometimes, that magic causes us to choke up, feel a pit in our stomachs, shed a tear. Sometimes, that magic causes us to smile, tap our toes, feel an air of euphoria. Last year, my team danced to “Sunchyme” by Dario, and the whole point of the dance was nothing more than to just give the audience a breath of fresh air (I can’t reveal just yet what this year’s theme is, but I can assure you it is VERY different).
Both start with a concept: When choreographing a dance, sometimes that concept is a set of steps, perhaps a costume idea, a turn section or cool lift, a chunk of music. When writing a book, sometimes that concept begins with a thesis statement, a really cool writing style, a book title. The concept of the “Sunchyme” dance began the previous year, when the local population was undergoing some huge tragedies, and I began thinking about what we, as a dance team, could do to uplift our community. The concept of Happily Never After began after a church sermon, a conversation with a friend, and a book title. In the creative process, you knew quite know WHEN a concept might pop up–it could be through a dream in the middle of the night, at a really fun concert you attend, or through a heart-to-heart conversation with a stranger.
The concept morphs: With each addition, revision, sets of cleaning, the concept morphs; the original idea you began with is never the complete ending idea, but it’s the journey that is so fun and interesting to watch. Before competition, I always enjoy watching a video from when we first began crafting the dance just to prove how far we have come. Because change occurs in small, seemingly insignificant ways, to the eye that sees the product on a day to day basis, you never quite notice how much better it is getting; you never quite notice how much stronger the dancers are, how much more fluid the transitions become, how much softer the product feels. Happily Never After first began strictly as an academic-research-based book, until I realized how important it was for my voice to come through. Then, the blog posts were added, the beginning actually became the end, and one day, I was able to add humor.
It always starts as a big mess: My stuff always starts as a big mess. In dance land, when we first begin working on a dance, no one knows the counts, there are probably girls running into each other, and half the time, we stand there because there is no choreography. In writing land, the ending is actually in the beginning, but then actually, that part gets cut out, the section about traveling intermixes with the section about weddings, and the same idea of “post-college identity crisis” is repeated at least five times. But, it is through each revision that the piece of art gets dialed down, refined, and reconstructed. Of course, the first stages involve major shifts and changes, but as we continue to work through, the changes become small, minute, minor ones that…
There comes a time that its just done: Of course, we desire perfection, and we want to put our best work out there, but there usually comes a time when it’s going to be the best product possible, and its ready for the public eye. Slicing or breaking in that one particular part is really not going to make a difference, using the word “insignificant” rather than “altered” won’t really matter, and the only one conscious of that slight awkward pause is actually just you.
You can’t force the creative process: My photographer friend once said, “I am not sure I like having my passion as my job, because it kind of takes all the fun out of it”. Perhaps it is just my oppositional-defiance, but I cannot force creativity. This is why I start conceptualizing my dances a year in advance, and why I start writing papers the first week of the semester–I just never know when that creative burst is going to strike, and I really cannot produce ideas if I am not feeling up to it. But, the same is true on the flip side: when the creative process wants to go, it WANTS to go, and you can’t stop it.
There is always a part you don’t like: Inevitably, there is always a part of a piece of writing, and a piece of a dance, that is constantly revised, re-choreographed, re-written, re-constructed. Last year, it was the ending section of our dance. I can’t tell you how many times we changed it, until we finally just had to settle with what was. In Happily Never After, it was the second section (about redefining myself through my spiritual journey and traveling) that kept getting re-written, and there finally came a time where it wasn’t getting any better, and it was just going to be what it was, and hopefully, the next go around would be easier.