The excitement and the dread, all too familiar, of returning to the writing of my upcoming book are back to my desk. The dance mirror where I choreograph and teach; the dance shoes, cds, scarves, weird props only Oriental Dancers would recognize and MUST READ – ever growing – pile of boks are on the side. The exterior world – its movement, noise and permanent requests of attention (often towards insignificant things) – starts to bother me really hard. I lift my fist and threaten it:
-Leave me alone. Stop stealing my focus, energy, inspiration. I have a book to write, for God´s sake!
That side of me, which my mum calls “Joana´s convent mode”, takes on bizarre contours. I don´t know how professional writers, people who live from/to writing, do it; I have no clue if they act as wild as I do, if they become cave people with mad eyes that sparkle in the dark; if a deep silence, almost like a doom, falls upon them while they´re writing as if every significant word they carry in their veins had to be saved for their book. Do they become – psycho killer style – silent like I do? Do they look like Mozart´s twin brother/sister on his final phase of absolute decadence? ´Cause I know I do. At least I feel like I do which ends up being the same.
How selfish a writer must be! And how demanding is this lover called “my book”. Even when I´m not writing, I am writing. Matters exterior to the writing process don´t interest me, unless I can use them in the book. I´m always absent, even when around people, lost in a land of my own making where brooding over chapters and characters rules.
Shallow talk, which has never been my cup of tea, becomes unbearable. I turn into an anti-social animal who forgets civilization (or whatever that means). The panorama worries me – I´m a public figure and a dancer; I cannot afford to close myself away in a paradisiac cabin by a lagoon, only a hot lover as company, in order to focus solely on my writing. Besides, there´s no guarantee this book will turn out good (so many hours of unpaid work and cave digging may end up in nothing). Although I write with passion and have the assistance of an editor who´s revising the text with me, I´m the one who does the writing and puts her neck on the rope.
The hours and energy I take away from my dance work, the one that pays the bills at the end of each month, will never be returned and I cannot know, for sure, if this gigantic enterprise will pay off in any possible way. Still I move forward.
The first volume is practically done – thanks, 2015! – but there are two or three more on the way. Is it daunting? For sure. I still have to function in the “real world”, dance to pay my bills, act as if I haven´t turned into an alien.
I keep walking, writing, believing, reigniting The Flame without guarantees, recognition or a public who reads what I´m producing. I go away from The Lover because I have to – traveling for work, teaching and doing my regular job – but I always go back to It. It´s like one of those affairs: I cheat on my husband (my dance) with my lover (my writing) and there´s nothing I can do about it.
To the question WHY? Why would a successful dancer take her precious, productive time to sit and write for thousands of hours without any guarantee of success?, there´s only two possible answers: OBSESSION or LOVE. Maybe both, simultaneously.
“One cannot be taught to write. One can only learn to write by writing—and reading. Reading good books written by real artists—until you understand why they are good.”
― Truman Capote from a letter to Alvin Dewey III (25 May 1964) included in TOO BRIEF A TREAT: The Letters of Truman Capote By Truman Capote