When I was twenty-one I set out to become a dancer.
For six months I’d been drinking in Europe – its museums, galleries, cafes and its men – but I was still thirsty. I’d been stretching my legs on the balustrade of my Persian lover’s balcony while gazing out over the worn hills of Rome when I realized that I had to do something with my life.
I’d always danced with great joy and abandon, so why not be a dancer, I thought.
I took myself off to Toronto, got a job waiting tables in a revolving restaurant and spent most of my waking hours in the studio. But I started at twenty-one, which is to say old to begin dance as a profession. In the third year of waking up every morning sore and burning and still leaping like a buffalo, I asked the exquisite Kathryn Brown when it would stop hurting so much. Her answer changed everything. She said, “If I’m not in pain when I wake up I know I haven’t worked hard enough.”
I am a pleasure monger, so this statement killed it for me. The pleasure I did garner from those ecstatic moments when I got it right; when I was on beat or when I could rise from the floor in one graceful sweep, were eclipsed by the reality of the pain and the knowledge that all my effort would never lead me to the stage.
Many years later I got serious about my other great love – writing. After being bolstered by the kick-ass life coach, Anna Mackay-Smith and ignited by the workshops of Sue Reynolds, I dug in, taking workshops, going on retreats, enrolling in courses, reading everything about writing, and writing and writing and writing.
Although, like dance, I’ve always written, it’s just been the past six years (aside from a smattering of publication in my late twenties) that I’ve taken myself seriously enough to call myself a writer.
The difference is now that the pleasure eclipses the pain. It is more painful now when I don’t write than when I do. Those days in a row when I absolutely can’t get to the page or the laptop slay me more than hard criticism, rejection, or rereading something I’ve written that reads poorly and needs major revision.
The novel’s in a “drawer” after having been beaten into submission. It’s bruised and aching and it hurts every morning, but I intend to get it dancing again once the memoir of my training in India is completed.
I gave up on dancing. I won’t be giving up on writing any time soon.