When I look back at my years as a professional dancer, I remember so much joy, and a lot of struggle. I was never the most talented, the most flexible, or the quickest learner. And yet, I was known as a strong performer—musical and expressive. You’d think that years of being referred to as “that head turner on stage” would have left me brimming with confidence.
You’d be wrong. In the hours before every performance, I’d morph into a shaky mess, make multiple trips to the bathroom, snap at my fellow dancer/husband, and endlessly go through my warm-up rituals.
Right before I went on stage was the worst. I’d tell myself I needed to take up a different profession, one where all my weaknesses and vulnerabilities weren’t so exposed. Key punch operating sounded especially appealing.
The only thing that relieved my anxiety was getting started. Once on stage, I got lost in the dancing, in the music and the moment. Pure bliss!
The funny thing is that now that I’m a writer, my pre-performance anxiety is remarkably similar. In the weeks before starting a new novel, I spend hours working on plotting and doing character sketches. The whole time, I’m feeling anxious and insecure about beginning to write. Even though no one has to see my initial messy draft, filling that first blank page feels akin to the lights going up right before I make my first entrance. Relief only pours in once I actually do write that first sentence, and then the next, and the next.
That’s what happened to me this week when I began work on my fifth novel. Once I was actually writing, the process of becoming immersed in this new fictional world drew me in. Intense gratitude flowed through me.
I’d love to report that all was well once I got beyond that first writing session. But truth be told, every day that I return to my work and prepare to forge ahead, the jitters dance around the edges of my consciousness. And some days are a real slog when the words don’t come easily at all.
As it was for me in dance, writing is a struggle as well as a joy. And once again, I’m not and will never be the slickest or the most talented. But if I just make myself get started, and keep going, the music and the expressiveness in my words will hopefully come.