Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dare to be bad

"Dare to be bad."

This is what my jazz teacher said in the middle of dance class last night, to try to push some younger students into taking more chances. He went on to say "I'd much rather have you be over the top and have to tell you 'That's too much, now, sweetie, tone it down'. It's much easier to get you to scale it back than to get you up to performance level to begin with."

As in dance, so in writing, I think.

"Dare to be bad" is not a new concept for me. DTBB was our motto in my college theater group. It was amazingly liberating. I mean, what's the worst that can happen on stage? You can suck. Furthermore, you're going to suck. Guaranteed. Sometimes you just suck.

But once you get over your fear of sucking? That fearlessness translates into a confidence that takes you places you were always afraid to go, before. And once you've made a bad choice, you've eliminated somethiing that doesn't work and are one step closer to finding something that does work.

Same with the page. So you write a scene, chapter, sequence that sucks. It's just paper. Throw it away. Use what you just learned to write something better.

Don't mind me, I'm just speaking to myself, here, because I'm having performance anxiety about my third book. But hearing those particular words coming out of my teacher's mouth last night reminded me - you get nowhere in dance, writing or life - without risk.

Dare to be bad.

Hah. This week, I am fearless. ;)


JT Ellison said...

This week? How about this lifetime.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hah! No kidding, JT. Maybe this week just SEEMS like a lifetime.

billie said...

I needed to hear this today.

My tendency in writing is to protect the characters - I'm getting better about that, but a reminder is very good. :)

Love that you're dancing by night and writing by day! Great way to balance the creative energy, imo...


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Billie - I needed to hear it, too.

That's an interesting thing to say - that you protect your characters. Hmm - I wonder if I do? Definitely something to put on the checklist.

I think I am especially surly about writing this week because my short story turned out so well and now I have to go back to the hell of longform. It just seems to take forever to build up critical mass.

I have to remember that in the beginning quantity can be as important as quality, though.

billie said...

I had a wonderful woman writer read an early draft of my first novel once, and she said something to the effect of: "You need to put these people in a room together and let them have it out!! Nothing held back!"

I wasn't letting the underlying stuff out - it was potentially too scary/ugly/bad. But once I let it out, the magic starts. :)

Her reaction to my pages was surprising to me, and wonderful. She was instrumental in helping me find a metaphor for editing that still works for me - archaeology. I still envision myself uncovering the "find" bit by bit, with rougher tools in the beginning and finer ones later in the process.

I imagine it must be a big transition to return to the book after a short story. I have given up on short forms. I can't do it in email, comments on blogs, or in Word For Macs. :)

Have a great writing day - it is perfect here, all misty and magical.


elainesbrain said...

I always liked this little ditty by that wacky Cioran. (I don't necessarily abide by it but it always makes me smile that he said it):

“Cruelty, at least in literature, is a sign of election,” wrote the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran. “The more talented a writer is the more ingeniously he contrives to put his characters in situations from which there is no escape; he persecutes them, tyrannizes them, traps them in blind alleys, forces them to experience every phase of a long drawn out agony.”

Toni McGee Causey said...

Wonderful post Alex, I also really needed to hear that this week. I love that choice in crisis = true character, and I think whenever we get to the point of having to expose ourselves and our possible flaws, if we let that fear go, we can become something more. If we hold onto the fear and let it dominate us into compliance, then we've become much less than we could have been, and that choice says a lot about who we, ultimately, are. I'd rather be considered a fool than afraid.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Wow, Elaine, that's a GREAT quote. That definitely goes in the file.

Now why does that suddenly remind me of APOCALYPTO?

(Great movie. Forget Mel did it and go. That's real cinema.)

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Toni! Isn't it odd that in so many ways authors are the ballsiest people out there - SUCH thick skins and persistence - and yet fear seems to be one of our biggest collective issues?

Anyway, it always helps to be reminded that we're not alone in the struggle.

I love the DUNE quote: "Fear is the mind-killer".

Joe Moore said...


There's another way to look at it: Dare To Take Risks. There's an old cliché that still rings true: She who risks, wins.


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

You're right, Joe, but "Dare to Take Risks" just doesn't have the naughty undertones of "Dare to Be Bad".

I like to keep my options open.

Spy Scribbler said...

Oh man! I shoulda made that one of my New Year's Resolutions!

Good teacher. :-)