Friday, 19 May 2017

Injecting Fun Into Your Routine: Step 1

So, it’s all very well having a very structured routine to ensure you’re getting words on the page. But if you want to make those words count then you really need to spend some time doing things other than writing.  For me, specifically, I find that taking time away from writing helps make my writing better because I come back to work which needs editing with a clearer mind.  The thing about writing is that even when you’re doing other things your brain is almost always working on the writing to some degree. So it's vital to take time out and do something which puts your writing brain into REM sleep so it can dream great dreams.

Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing some things I do to chillax and temporarily get my brain out of writing mode. 

First up:

During the week I try to make it to at least one dance class and one social dance. This isn’t always possible, but I make a massive effort to do the dance class if nothing else.

Argentine Tango
I’ve been doing Tango for about 12 years now and there’s nothing like learning the nuances of the dance to take you completely away from thoughts on writing. It is an activity which requires me to ‘listen’ to instructions given by my lead, decide how to respond, interpret the music and just generally bask in the glow of an intimate partner dance.

Me, several years ago now, with
Thomas Keenes, getting our dance
on at a free National Theatre event

When I first started Tango I was completely consumed by the intricacies of this dance.  It took me a while to stop trying to anticipate, let go and be led. I instantly loved the excuse to dress up for Milongas (tango balls) and was lured in further by the fabulous shoes worn by followers.  Now my only battle is preventing myself from buying yet another pair of delicious Balanceo shoes.

Lindy Hop
After seeing a couple of friends do this dance at their wedding, I took it up. Lindy Hop is very different from Tango as it is exuberant and very energetic.  It took me a while to free myself of my upright Tango stance but that did not stop me from enjoying this dance to the max.  Learning the basic steps and how to fit them into the music has been challenging and definitely freed my mind of any writing thoughts. Not only is it an infectious dance but it reminds me of my parents who loved to dance and met in a dance hall. 

Loretta, my fabulous teacher at Moonshine
Alley, showing me the finer points 
of Lindy Hop style
I’m now at the stage where I don’t freeze in terror when someone asks me to dance during the social part of the evening.  More recently I’ve even started asking people to dance with me – a sure sign confidence in my ability to perform the steps is growing. After a social dance I always leave the floor breathless and grinning.

Now here comes the Science bit. And there’s quite a bit of it. Studies have shown that dancing, particularly partner dancing, is massively beneficial to your health.  Not only does it reduce your chances of dementia by over 70% because it keeps your brain actively firing neural connections but also improves your mood.

Thinking about it but need a few more incentives?  Well, here goes:

  • It improves balance
  • It controls your weight
  • It improves co-ordination
  • It increases self-confidence
  • Is beneficial for your heart
  • Increases your chances of socialising more
  • Increases your chances of meeting like-minded people

But be warned. There is a serious downside to this whole dancing business. Like me, you could become seriously addicted to your chosen style of dance. Before you know it, you’ll be slipping into sparkly lycra or donning some super cool flares.

Oh, go on. I dare you!  

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