When Writing Gets Tough, Just Keep Dancing

“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.”—Daniel Hillel

I discovered this quote in Bird by Bird, a book on writing by Anne Lamott. She mentions she taped it to the wall near her desk to help her deal with jealousy over another writer’s success.

Although perhaps directed toward life in general, the quote easily applies to the ups and downs of writing: self-doubt, rejection, futility, criticism, creative ruts. What writer hasn’t licked these wounds?

Though I first dipped my toes in the fiction pond fifteen years ago (excluding the novels of my youth that withered after chapter one), I only dived in fully the last four. And in these four years I have:

Gotten up.

Walked.

Fallen down.

And kept dancing.

Photo by Paul A. Warder. Check the bottom of the post to see who the dancer is!*

Photo by Paul A. Warder. Check the bottom of the post to see who the dancer is!*

You know the drill. Not everything we start pans out. Agents and publishers won’t flock to our doors. Our books will get lost on Amazon among millions of other books.

But when we fall down, we get back up, because the dancing makes it worth it. That dance of fire and passion when our stories come alive. That dance of satisfaction when we connect the pieces and create a whole. That dance of having other people enjoy our work.

Well, at least that’s my dance, anyway.

What’s yours?

Whether for writing or other life challenges, what keeps you dancing?

*This fabulous photo is of my sister-in-law, Lisa Conlin, professional dancer in both Minneapolis and Sioux Falls. She is the Co-Artistic Director (along with Raena Rasmussen) of LiRa Dance Theater Company, premiering August 4th at the Museum of Visual Materials in Sioux Falls, SD. I wish I could say my dear husband has her skills, but he does not. Which is another thing he and I have in common.

*     *     *

Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of Eating Bull and The Seneca Scourge. For full bio, click here.

225 Responses to “When Writing Gets Tough, Just Keep Dancing”

  1. pegoleg

    Great advice to all of us to keep dancing no matter what.

    And your sister-in-law is gorgeous! Did your husband at least inherit her good-looking gene?

    Like

  2. Kate Johnston

    Great post, Carrie. I think it’s easier to keep dancing when we accept that we’re going to fall down first. A lot. With plenty of stumbling in between!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Definitely. It’s easy to get discouraged in writing, so knowing we’re going to falter when we go into it helps soften the blow. Well, a little anyway. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. MamaMickTerry

    What a great article, Carrie!
    Every time I whine about not having enough time to write, I think about you.
    You’ve obviously made it a priority and hit your strife.
    It’s 5 am – heading to my office to write and dance 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you. We squeeze it in where we can, right? Five am–yikes. Not sure I’ve ever squeezed it in that early though. 😉 Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      • MamaMickTerry

        Six more chapters to go! I’m in the “deep editing” stage. It feels like purging closets, and I’m loving the process. As for the 5 a.m….it’s the only way I can get anything accomplished before jumping on the next airplane. Today, I’m commuting to Nashville 🙂

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  4. Inion N. Mathair

    Mathair keeps me dancing. I tend to lean towards pessimism and rampant insecurities whereas Mathair is very confident and optimistic. When I start to feel the writing blues she brings me back up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      How wonderful to have someone who elevates you like that. We all need people like that in our lives, and hopefully we can be it for others too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. J.B. Whitmore

    Dancing? So that’s what this is? Just got an eleven page, single-spaced editor’s memo on my book draft, accompanying the marked-up manuscript. It’s cool. It feels like cheating to get so much help. But wait! It’s going to be so much work. And can the work even be done? And will anyone read it? Besides whoever I pay to read it, I mean. Ahem. All right. Crank up the music. Give me a driving bass, the window-rattling kind you can hear when the neighbor teen drives past.

    That is a fantastic photo of your sister-in-law! What a backbend. And those arm muscles!

    Thank you for the reminder about Anne LaMott’s book, on my bookshelf, read many years ago. Time to dust it off. Also re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing this week.

    Will turn the bass up loud enough to be heard in your part of the country.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha, I thought I heard some base this morning!

      Lamott’s book is entertaining. Her writing approach is different from mine, but I love her humor. King’s ‘On Writing’ remains one of my favs.

      Best of luck with your edits! Sounds like you’ve got a good start with such thorough input from your editor.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Vanessa-Jane Chapman

    I thought you were going to say the photo was you, well I half thought that. Laughter keeps me dancing. I think I missed another post of yours too…

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    • Carrie Rubin

      The day you see me striking a magnificent dance pose and posting a photo of it online is the day you’ll laugh so much, your belly will hurt.

      Like

  7. Diane Henders

    I’ve been lucky enough to have a loyal fan base for my novels so that’s a lovely incentive to keep dancing, but the truth is I’d keep writing even if nobody ever read any of my books. I love the process so much that it’s a reward in itself. 🙂

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    • Carrie Rubin

      I love that you feel that way. I’d like to say the same, but I’m not sure I would. If nobody would read a story I created, I’m not sure I’d have the motivation to finish it. But even if a handful of people read and enjoy it? Well, that makes me dance. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A @ moylomenterprises

    Writing is the only thing that keeps me sane. Without it my head would explode. It’s the only way to make sense of the gazillion things I need to do, want to do, can’t do and refuse to do. I make lists, write poetry, write as therapy, and write for fun, write to say hello, write to connect. I need that connection outside my head. It gives voice to the thoughts in my head so I can find peace.

    Being a single parent means there’s not many to pass the baton to in a given day so my army of one must keep fighting. I have no choice but to keep dancing. I have to be strong for her. And, on the days I fall or don’t feel strong enough, she takes my hand and we dance together. Just turn up the music!!! 😀

    Great post. Very motivating…

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s a lovely comment. Thank you. When we have to go it alone and carry the extra work that involves, as you do, it’s even more important to have something that keeps us dancing. So happy to hear writing does that for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. roughwighting

    You express the ups and downs, the lows and the highs of writing so well. Yes, I just keep dancing when I get discouraged. And I find that when I blog that helps me keep dancing in the art of writing also. As do wonderful blog posts like this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you so much! Even though I’m not very good about doing these awards, the nod is always a treat. Much appreciated. I’ll head over there now. 🙂

      Like

  10. Writing Time Trepidation – Tammie Painter

    […] I’ve gotten two doses of gumption this week. In the first, author Carrie Rubin offered up a motivation-inducing post on her Write Transition blog. In the second, the keeper of the Sidereal Catalyst blog, Abigail Zebrowski, not only shared the […]

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  11. John Callaghan

    I think this is particularly true when it comes to writing. The statical odds of achieving commercial success are so slim that one would have to write for the pleasure of writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carrie Rubin

      Agreed. There are so many books out there now. I notice a change even from my first novel’s release 3 1/2 years ago. If we don’t derive pleasure (or dance) from writing, then we should probably put our energy elsewhere.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. BunKaryudo

    We have to keep dancing, even when we’re down. It either that or just give up, something that helps no one and produces nothing. 🙂

    Like

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