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Choreographing a Dance vs. Writing a Book: A Similar Process?

When I had just finished writing my memoir and was speaking to different publishing companies, one person asked me: “I’m always so curious to talk to artists in different fields who write a book. As a dancer and choreographer, was writing a book a similar process to what you do when you choreograph a dance?”

I had never thought of that comparison before, and his question seemed to come out of left field. Especially because I could sense in his eager, excited voice that he really wanted me to say YES!

I didn’t know how to respond at first.

Writing (and finishing) a book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. (If not THE hardest.) With choreographing, there are other people involved: dancers who you can actually see in front of you and who take it upon themselves to create your vision. If you don’t like how the dance piece is going, you can change it, and you can see the change take place in real time. It’s all right in front of your eyes in 3D. It all just makes sense. It’s manageable, it flows, it comes easily. If you are really stuck, dancers can improvise or you can give them a choreographic task. You are not sitting by yourself, alone in your own head while you connect with a screen in front of you. Instead, you are working in tandem with others (dancers) who are there with a strong purpose, and who contribute greatly to bringing your vision to life.

Now…a book on the other hand…even with a fleshed-out 25-page outline (Yep.) felt like a giant enormous never-ending project that I couldn’t quite ever grasp because I wasn’t going to go back and read my unfinished book every day to make sure I still liked it and it was still going on-track with my overall vision. I just had to keep going, every single day, making small progress which I had to trust would eventually bestow upon me a completed story. (Which did eventually happen!) I scheduled 2 hours every day to write and created a spreadsheet where I recorded my word-count, making daily and weekly goals for myself. This was my attempt at staying motivated and on-track, because the end-goal of a completed book felt so very far away. And yet, despite the challenge...I knew this book had to be written.

In choreographing a dance, the dancers “run the piece” at the end of rehearsal and you can sit back, write notes, or take a video and analyze it later, taking note of things to change. But in the writing process, it’s advisable NOT to re-read constantly and instead just focus on getting your story written, then go back at the end and start a lengthy revision process that can last for several months. So, as you can see, the two creative endeavors are very different. And of course, each individual will have their own perspective, based on what comes most naturally. I can only hope that with each book, it gets a little easier!

At their essence, however, both writing a book and choreographing a dance are birthing a creation, both require going deep and ultimately creating meaning and beauty and substance out of sheer vision and inspiration. And I would say that both are lofty endeavors indeed!

ps. Want to learn more about my book? Click here to read the synopsis.

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