Writing is like dancing – it's easy to be great when no one is watching.

So you think you're a great dancer. And you are…when you’re home alone, vacuuming, enjoying a margarita. As long as you stay there, in your own little bubble of fabulousness, you’ll never open yourself up to criticism or judgement. But what if you want to bust out of your bubble and explore new horizons? What if you have dreams of dancing professionally or maybe a side hustle?

Are you prepared?

Picture this - you’re at a wedding. You’re surrounded by people who are, at best, not professional dancers. At worst, it looks less like dancing and more like they need medical attention. Some are so lacking in rhythm, it makes the DJ wonder if they are listening to a different song. You know you are the best dancer there, because your Boot Scootin’ Boogie is clearly superior, so you leave feeling pretty good about yourself.

(*Please note - I am using my family as a random sampling of dancing aptitude. Most are just on south-side of average, while others resemble a ferret on Redbull. Yes, I’m looking at you, Karen.)                                                  

Now imagine you’re at Beyonce’s wedding and all of her back-up dancers are there. They probably won’t tear you down with harsh judgement, they are professionals after-all, but it’s still wildly intimidating to dance in front of them. While you appreciate the patient souls who try to teach you some (simple) dance steps, you mostly feel klutzy and awkward. You stumble home at dawn without your shoes or your dignity, but with some cool new moves in your dance repertoire.

Girl dancing across street

With more practice, you now feel ready for the big leagues and audition for the show So You Think You Can Dance? It's not just intimidating, it’s positively bone-chilling. The judgement is right there in the title. The casting people can’t be too lenient because the big bosses will ask them, “What the hell were you thinking letting the idiot through who did the Macarena?” (Stop requesting that song Karen.) In fairness, they have to be tough and picky about who gets on the show, because it’s their job to weed out the weak or unprepared.

See where I’m going with this analogy?

We can all believe we’re Janet Jackson when no one is watching. And like dancing, with writing we can all dream we’re Maya Angelou or Margaret Atwood (or an award-winning journalist or a copywriter at a top agency or any writer with mad skills) when no one is reading. If we want to strike out on the difficult path of putting ourselves out to the writing universe, reality might hit hard.

First, like dancing at a family wedding, you give your writing to friends, family members or maybe a supportive writing group. They might give their opinions, but they’re probably not going to be too harsh. And they most likely aren’t professional writers or editors, so they probably won’t really know what to say anyway. 

Attending Beyonce’s wedding is like reaching out for opinions on your writing from professional writers and editors. This is where you start to realize you maybe have more work to do than you thought. Professionals are for honest feedback and constructive criticism, so this is the stage where reality hits. You now realize you should sign up for a writing class or get serious about researching how to improve your writing on your own.

When you’re ready for So You Think You Can Dance?, the judges in the writing world are things like publishing houses, big media outlets and publications, and agents. Make sure your writing is ready, because this ain’t cousin Sheila’s disco-themed wedding, Karen.

Hit that dance floor.

The path to getting published is not a straight shot in comfortable shoes over a smooth dance floor. Sometimes you’ll find your rhythm and next time you’ll twist an ankle. Just when you think you’ve mastered the running man, you’ll see the video. It can feel awkward and graceless at times and flow effortlessly at others.

Keep putting it out there. Seek knowledge and improvement. Practise. Persevere. Have fun. Taking an honest shot at a passion is never wasted time.

So keep getting out there Karen. Put on your dancing shoes, knock back that Chardonnay, and hit the dance floor. 

~Christine MacLeod

Want some concrete tips to improve your writing? Check out - 7 Tips to Make Your Writing More Powerful. (As for tips to improve your dancing - I’ve got nothing. Better google it.)