Saturday, September 4, 2010

Belly Dancing and Nationals





What do belly dancing and going to Nationals have in common? Nothing on the surface, I wanted to do both and felt I was too old to do either. There are times I look at younger, published writers and wonder if it is too late? I look at younger dancers and think how I used to have abs that flat.

Both writing and belly dancing require instruction and practice to get better. My goal was to practice every day, although I didn’t always. That’s why weekly dance classes, chapter meetings and writer challenges kept me moving forward. My dance teacher would chide me if she could see I hadn’t practiced appropriately. My critique pals were more gentle. In the end, I was working toward a goal in both.

In writing, it is getting published. Nationals would be my foot in the door since I had an interview with an editor. In belly dancing, I had to dance in full costume in public with my last dance occurring in an Egyptian restaurant. It was also an improv class, which meant I didn’t know what I was going to do until I heard the music. It was a form of thinking on your feet, which I think a pitch session is.

You go in knowing you are going to talk about your book, but you don’t know what type of response you might get. The restaurant patrons can have various reactions, not unlike editors. Some are excited to see you that’s the whole reason they came. Others are clearly bored, while others act annoyed. In dancing, you keep smiling never let them know how you feel about their reaction, but move on to a more receptive audience. I think that is a good advice for everything.

It’s funny that I thought I was too old for both writing and dancing. I’ve been dancing for about two years now and have seen many young women eagerly join, but quit a few weeks later when they realize how hard it really is. There were an equal number of middle age women quitting too. It isn’t about age. I’ve heard the oldest belly dancer is 92 and she’s still dancing and teaching. It is more about determination and trying. Currently, I am dancing with ladies from 19 to 67. The one factor they all have in common is they love dancing. Writing is like that.

Next year, I will be fifty. I find this hard to believe unsure how I lived this long, but it is a signpost age for me. A signal to do the things I always wanted to do, but only talked about that’s why I decided to spend the money to fly to Orlando. That’s why I signed up for a dance class that was so far out of my comfort zone that it was in the next galaxy. Without conflict, our characters don’t grow and neither do we.

As for Nationals, they were wonderful. I saw many writers I knew, made new friends, and gathered up lots of books. My pitch went well and the editor asked for a partial, first pre-pub step. After that massive high, it was time for my belly dance graduation.

The dancers attired in heavy makeup, coin belts and veils were ready. To compensate Samir, the restaurant owner, we ordered food and drink. My fellow dancers and I knocked back drinks hoping the patrons would leave. They didn't. We warmed up with a group dance. All the dancers whirled and shimmied around the tables. That wasn’t too bad, but I knew my solo was coming, my graduation solo.

Assuming the position, I waited for the first notes of the song, smiling at my fellow dancers while wondering why I put myself through this kind of hell. Some of my fellow dancers chose to pass on graduating. Many were too self-conscious. They spent weeks working up to the restaurant dance only to bail at the last minute. Many writers slave over a manuscript they never submit because they’re afraid. Don’t think I wasn’t self-conscious, especially with the owner staring at me, he was used to professional dancers.

Mentally, I told myself to work the audience. Most of the steps came as I heard the music, a few I threw in as my teacher yelled encouragement. I had to sidle by the owner to make my circle of all the tables. My teacher encouraged me to stay with the owner and dance for him. Are you crazy I wanted to yell at her. In truth, I guess it was no worse than pitching to an editor. The song lasted forever, but there were many encouraging yells from fellow dancers and their husbands.

I did it. I pushed myself into public performance in both writing and dancing. Hard work involved in both, and even more hard work to come. Belly dancing and romance writing are such a perfect combo in my humble opinion. What hobbies or pastimes do you have that compliment or enhance your writing? If you're wondering, that's not me in the photo. Wish it was. :)

16 comments:

JACLYN said...

MORGAN,

MARVELOUS ARTICLE. ALTHOUGH BELLY DANCING AND WRITING ROMANCE ARE A TOUGH COMBO.

I GIVE YOU CREDIT FOR TRYING BELLY DANCING. THAT TAKES COURAGE.

YOU'RE PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE AND LIKE WRITING ROMANCE YOUR PUTTING YOUR BABY OUT THERE FOR CRITICISM.

THE BEST I CAN COME UP WITH THAT IS WHEN I WAS YOUNG, AHEM, I DID A HAWAIIAN DANCE ON STAGE. MY POOR FATHER TURNED RED.

LOVE YOUR BOOK, HEADING WEST. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

JACLYN

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I LOVED it, Morgan. I loved the way you compared both the writing and the belly dancing. I was totally hooked and I wanted you, the heroine, to succeed in your belly dancing solo. :) That's what you need to succeed! The grits to overcome. Now, if I could only do that with trying to do a radio program for promotion. LOL :)

Cai said...

What a fabulous blog, Morgan! And congratulations to you on taking both steps - the belly dancing class AND tackling Nationals.

Your post is inspiring and I congratulate you on your success with the dancing and wish you good luck with your writing as well!

The determination you've shown WILL carry you forward!

Ana Morgan said...

I love this post, Morgan. I think life is about growth: overcoming some fear or insecurity in order to do what we really want to do.
group crit partner,
Ana

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

You have every right to stand proud for your accomplishments. How wonderful to have the stamina and guts to dance in front of an audience and, apparently do it so well. It's an honor to know you!!

I was a Camp Fire leader for thirteen years and one part of the pledge is 'to finish what I begin' which I have always tried to do. You are following your dreams and that is a lot to be proud of. I've accomplished a few of my own dreams and to feel that rush of getting it done is one of the best feelings ever.

Congratulations!

Sheila Tenold said...

What a terrific post! I loved your analogy about dancing for the restaurant owner and viewing that the same as pitching to an editor.

Congratulations on finishing both! Persistence pays off.

morgan wyatt said...

Hi Jaclyn,
I bet your hula was delightful. Thanks for commenting.

morgan wyatt said...

Terry,
Do the radio program. You have a great manner about you. I noticed that in your workshops. When you talk, your compassion shows--and so does your humor. Go for it.
Morgan

morgan wyatt said...

Cai,
Do the hard thing first was something my grandmother always said. I may have answered her with they're ALL hard.:) Thanks for your encouragement.:)

morgan wyatt said...

Ana,

Thanks for stopping by. I work on overcoming my fears every day. Currently, I am trying to overcome the fear of being successful.:)

morgan wyatt said...

Paisley,

I think there are few things more honorable than finishing what you started and showing up when you said you would. You go.:)

morgan wyatt said...

Sheila,

I will admit to thinking about backing out on both accounts. My partial morphed into a full. The restaurant owner had three dollars that he was going to bestow on his three favorite dancers. One he gave to an incredible thin young dancer, another he gave to me, I'm unsure who got the third dollar.:) I was too shocked to notice anything else.

Morgan

Lee Lopez said...

Morgan, you'll actually love your 50's I have. Life only gets better, even if the belly dancing does seem to be not as easy as it use to be. Great post.

morgan wyatt said...

Hi Lee,

I don't know if belly dancing ever seemed easier. Before I was all about waiting for things to happen. Now, I'm about making things happen. Thanks for stopping by.

Joan Leacott said...

Great post, Morgan. Making things happen--that's what the fifties are all about. Halfway through them, I've taken signing and piano lessons--astonishing myself that I can hit the high E, and hold the sucker. Rock on.

Joan Leacott
heart, humour, and heat... Canada style

Joanne said...

Morgan,
I give you so much credit for moving out of your comfort zone. Belly dancing sounds like great fun and exercise.