Near my writing station, I keep a photo of Ray Lewis, the former NFL linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am absolutely crazy for football. I live and breathe the stuff during football season: high school, college, pro – it don’t make no never-mind to me, folks. I love it all.
But that’s not why I keep the photo of Lewis in my line of vision when I sit down to write – nor is it because the Ravens, my old hometown team, were last year’s Super Bowl Champs. (Sorry, just had to work that in…)
Nope, I keep it for one reason only: Ray Lewis dances.
Exuberantly, joyfully, free of inhibition, he dances.
At each home game when his name is announced over the stadium’s loudspeakers, the music suddenly changes tempo. The home crowd braces in eager anticipation. And then! There he is – Number 52, clad in purple, emerging from the Raven’s ‘tunnel’ and dancing his way onto the football field. The fans go crazy. It is a moment of communication and exaltation: let the game begin!
Lewis has since retired.
But what a sight he was to behold. His dance was his own creation and, until he retired, it was a staple at home games. It communicated his passion for the game, his delight in it, the anticipation of the ‘battle’ about to be fought – and his assurance in the victory to come. Lewis was the poster boy of self-assurance, displaying no worry as to how his dance would be perceived or whether its strutting nature could hold up to his performance on the field. No – he just danced. He went for it.
Dance like a Raven, baby! Let yourself go, and dance, dance, dance!
What does this have to do with writing? Or my insistence in keeping Lewis’ photo near my work station?
That’s what it’s all about.
When I look at Lewis’ photo, I am caught up in his joy, his passion, his determination. And when I look at my darkened monitor, I think about this: sometimes, you just have to do your dance.
You have to allow the spirit within you to completely take you over. Put simply, you gotta go for the gusto and not be overly concerned what others might think, or whether they are dancing along with you.
I worry too much about my writing, and sometimes I allow my personal inhibitions and insecurities about whether I’m ‘good enough’ to paralyze me. I spend too much time wondering if my paragraphs are structurally sound; if my characters are too-over-the-top or (worse) too boring; I agonize over whether I can communicate to my readers the passion I feel. Will they get a glimpse of what I see? Will they care? Understand?
As a consequence, I end up frittering away valuable time in exploring the web or on emails because it is a diversion from the fear of failure – and I don’t get nearly enough productive work done.
Focus, baby! Sometimes, you just have to do your dance.
Cast away the fears that threaten creativity. Clothe yourself in self-confidence. And hope your readers join you in your ‘dance’.
I want to do what Lewis did all those years in Baltimore before he retired: I want to dance! I want my thoughts to fly without restraint from my brain to the monitor facing me. I want to infuse my fiction with passion. I want to communicate!
It’s my dance. I want to dance across the pages of the books people read. I want my readers to be as caught up by what I’m feeling as I am. I want to strut my stuff – and I want my readers to join me in the celebration.
I want to write. I want to dance.
Dance like a Raven, baby!