I used to be a tap dancer. Not one of those jazz-hands tap dancers. My tap teacher’s name was Otis Brown and the last thing he let his students be was stiff. He never told us to smile. He is on my shortlist for favorite people I’ve ever met, though, because he was seriously as cool as his name suggests.
I’m thinking about him and tap dancing because I’ve lost my writing rhythm this week. It’s the first time I can remember (and this sort of shocks me, given that I’ve been writing semi-consistently for about a dozen years) that I’ve actually felt the urge to have a regular writing rhythm. I’m pretty good at binge writing (talkin’ 20 pages a day during spring break blues…) But now, without a deadline, I want to hunker down and make myself write regularly.
Here’s a few tips I’m giving you and myself about how to find a writing rhythm, inspired by my tap dancing years. (Side note: I confess I still tap out those routines I learned. I tap when I’m standing in lines or I’m alone in elevators, or with my index and middle fingers on my right hand when I’m bored).
1. Listen for the rhythm.
This translates to being honest about our schedules and finding a writing time that we can actually manage to keep. We might have to start slow (single time step, y’all), before we can tackle more extensive routines. Nothing helps me feel more like a writer than when I actually keep the writing time I scheduled.
2. Adapt when the rhythm changes.
This translates to acknowledging that change happens. In a tap routine, this is a very good thing because it keeps the dance interesting. In a writing schedule, this is a very frustrating thing that makes me want to pull out all my hair. But I’m saying, let’s keep our hair on our heads and be gracious to ourselves when we have to switch it up a little. The most important thing is that we write.
3. If you lose the rhythm, get back on track without showing it on your face.
Nobody will ever know if you don’t show it on your face.
And now, here’s my favorite tap dancer in the whole world (next to Otis Brown, of course), for a little inspiration to be awesome.