Writing: The Art of Not-Knowing

Writing. Not sure how I came upon it but have been at it now for over 12 years. I am realizing lately that once an artist, always an artist. I began as a dancer from a young age, a technical dancer really, as it always consisted of taking dance class (very seriously) and performing in recitals and the like. Later in life, after pursuing quite an extensive academic education, I went back to dancing, modern dance to be precise, and was suddenly in the real world with it, which was quite different than being in school and extracurricular structures. Suddenly I was making a statement in the world that I was a “dancer.” At first, I wasn’t really committing, just thought, I will do this for a while and see where it leads me. Well, it never really ended. I could say officially for 20 years I was fully submerged in the dancer’s life as a student, teacher, performer, choreographer, collaborator, founder of a company, artistic director, and producer of concerts. I never imagined my life would evolve as such, nevertheless it was who I was in the world (among other things).

For the last 12 years my dance career phased out of my life, leaving me active with dance recreational activities, and the new “real” focus became writing. It began as a therapeutic practice, assimilating different influences in my personal notebook/journal until I gradually discovered I was writing a book. This was way more foreign to me than becoming a dancer because I had actively danced since age 7. I had written papers in high school, college and graduate school but had no idea at this point why I would suddenly be writing a book. Even stranger was that it was the most natural thing to self-publish it, which left me even more perplexed at my new landing in the world.

We tend to categorize aspects of our life in our mind: dancer, writer, teacher, mother, activist, bodyworker, mindfulness educator, etc., without realizing how integrated our life is all the time. Though this isn’t the first time I’m realizing the artist thread running through the disciplines of dancer and writer, it is recently striking me more profoundly as I continue to feel as if I’m in unknown territory. The word artist helps with this gap since the similar feelings of vulnerability swim through both being a dancer and a writer.

Since 2013, this blog has been dedicated to my position as a mindfulness educator in the brand I have founded called Mindful Reality. I have written two books on it and have been busily steeped in a third for the past 5+ years. I don’t see this changing any time soon, however, I have noticed my blogging has stopped since COVID really hit hard. Perhaps from the relief of recent election results and new calm in my system at least regarding that (hoping we are also headed toward a resolve of the pandemic before the end of 2021), I am finding myself eager to share something with a community of readers. However, since nothing has been emerging in the usual theme of this blog, maybe it is time for me to extend my voice into the writing/artist community.

I say this because I periodically, ferociously seek articles by writers whose writing experience resonates with what it’s like for me to be a writer/author in the world. It is possible my blogging will move more in the direction of sharing what it has been like for me in this vein, which would be new (for all the years I was in the modern dance profession the internet was really not yet an established medium). Though of course all careers and endeavors have their areas of inherent emotional fragility, there is something about exposing oneself through an art form that is particularly delicate. Just the strangeness of something unknown pouring out of your bodily movements such as a story, article, painting, dance phrase, musical composition, etc., can feel awkward and sensitive. I think it is a combination of this mysterious unknown-ness of what I am going to creatively produce in conjunction with the overall vulnerability I feel financially as all my attention remains consistently on writing (and I don’t make much money from it).

Not-knowing is a theme in my mindfulness practice and one I am fairly comfortable with; in fact I find it quite liberating that I can really know nothing for sure I am going to do at any point in my future (even a half hour from now), no matter how much it feels like I do. Meanwhile, being any kind of serious artist presents the epitome of this phenomenon as a standard practice. Art just comes by itself, and often when mindfulness practitioners try to teach people how to allow for the reality of not-knowing what’s coming next in their life, they turn to the example of artists. Painting comes to mind (something I also do a bit of). People feel comfortable using this as a reference because it’s typically clear that once you put the brush to the canvas you kind of have no idea where it’s headed, even if you thought you knew. The painting takes on a life of its own. Life is like that too, at least the way I see it. And I find writing and my writing life to be very much like this. I sit down for several hours a day journaling in a notebook before I eventually edit a manuscript, work on a course script, create a Blog or Instagram post, etc. But whatever it is, it is always a surprise. I don’t get any kind of signal beforehand about what is going to come out of me that day. It’s a complete mystery and this never ceases to fascinate me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah this is not novel. Yet I long to connect with others about it. I want to know that other writers experience this too, even if the details of their career are completely different than mine. I want to hear that others sense the awkwardness and vulnerability I am familiar (yet comfortable) with of just being clueless about what they are going to produce in their artistic processes. The absolute magic of art, that it does itself and has a life of its own. Please share if you are so inclined!

2 Comments

  1. I’m really looking forward to reading more of your posts. I love your openness and hearing about your personal relationship with creating art. I would be interested to hear more about your experience in dance as it’s something I’m so fascinated by as an art form!

    Like

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