How to be Successful at Writing . . .

. . . take dance lessons?

If you want to know how to be good at something, you should watch this video on YouTube.

Ok, watch it, I’ll wait. Seriously, I don’t mind. I’ll be right here.

Fun isn’t it? Simple idea well executed. Remember that post last time about acting on your ideas, well they did that for sure. But what else can we learn as writers from this delightful clip?

Timing and Pacing
Highs and lows, starts and stops. It’s an object lesson in how to use variety to hold someone’s attention. Don’t just change the perspective every chapter because you DO, have a reason, mix it up. Read through your work and feel where the pace needs to change. Get to a certain point and say, yeah it needs to change now. It’s like video editing, you instinctively know where an edit point needs to go. Nothing else feels right. Don’t do anything by rote. KNOW where the changes should come.

Sense of Humour
It is a tricky balancing act, taking your work seriously but having humour, a twinkle in your eye that says “while I am a professional I don’t take myself too seriously”. Humour also conveys humanity, everyone on Earth has a sense of humour, no matter how small, and so you can relate to it. Humans love to connect with other humans, we can’t help it. Humour is the fastest and most rewarding way to do that.

The surprise comes when you realise they are going to be sitting down the whole time. The surprise continues when you see how many inventive ways they’ve come up with the make an entertaining dance within that narrow boundary. Pacing is all about surprise too, if you don’t see the changes coming the surprise keeps your attention.

Restriction is Good
And yes they have made themselves be creative by restricting their movement. It’s the answer to the question “could we choreograph an entire dance sitting down?” It’s one of the most versatile tools in your writing toolbox, how can you make the situation of your characters SO seemingly impossible to survive and yet still credibly get them through? It’s all about RESTRICTION. How can you restrict yourself to tell a story? For example, you have to tell a story from the point of view of a dog. Or you have to tell the story only in words of 6 letters or less. Or each chapter of the story has to only be two pages long but contain a full day’s events. Work with restriction, it’s one of the most POWERFUL tools to make you more creative.

Practise Practise Practise
Of course they do what they do because they are good at it. But what separates them from the pack is they practise, and they practise a little more and when they don’t want to do this STUPID video anymore they take a short break to compose themselves and they practise more and more till they get SO good at it the video gets 4 million hits. Get crazily good at what you do by doing it. A lot.

I recommend you watch that video any time you reach an impasse in your writing and want to remind yourself what a perfect, sparky, enjoyable and enduring piece of writing should feel like.



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(FX: tap dances off into the distance to the tune of “Happy Feet”)


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