the writing process

black holes and footwork

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible.

NASA, “What Is a Black Hole?

I used to dance.

Which is a little like saying “I used to run guns for the Colombian cartel.” The statement kind of subsumes the experience.

I took my first dance class at the age of four. I don’t remember much about it, except for the face of my dance teacher, which I can still visualize, 43 years later. I also remember one moment, during preparation for the school’s production of The Nutcracker, when we were all being lined up in soldierly rows and columns, rank and file, filling up the space of an indoor gym – another instructor surveyed the lot of us and proclaimed “there’s only one person in the entire room who isn’t in line correctly.”

Any guesses?

Sidebar: that was my first brush with shame, but it wouldn’t be my last. It almost did me in. I could not stand the sensation of being publicly humiliated, and any kind of critique, except the most mild and positively framed, felt like humiliation, at least ’til I made it out of my teens. I’ve made a point ever since of being very mindful about how I deliver constructive criticism. So, in that sense, it was a valuable lesson.

Anyway, that was the first of many, many years. Six different instructors, five different schools, and 17 years later, I took my last dance class during my final year of college.

That was the end of my dance with dancing, until 14 years later, when chronic pain began complicating – well, everything, and it turned out belly dance was one of only two kinds of exercise I could safely do. Everything else produced a flare-up of pain that drove me into the bed for days.

So, the point here is: I dance. I’ve always danced, though what that looks like — and who gets to see it — has changed somewhat dramatically.

I’m also something of a physics geek — strictly of the layperson variety, mind you. It just fascinates me.

When the phrase “black hole tango” occurred to me, some months back, I jotted it down in my little go-everywhere-with-me notebook, as one of those things I wanted to hang on to, and perhaps find a use for somewhere down the road.

I don’t know when I started associating it with writing.

The process of writing is very much like a dance with a black hole. The need to write sort of pulls you into itself, and has a seriously annoying way of obliterating your view of just about everything else that’s on your radar. And you have to … dance.

I don’t know. It made sense at the time.

Just go with it.


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