Song Of The Week: Dancing In The Dark

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I’ve had a really good weekend and in the process I think I’ve found my new theme song for the next little while – Dancing In The Dark. The song was made famous by The Boss, but a new version has come to my attention and sneaked into my heart and mind. I was meant to be away camping this weekend, but a mix of issues (social, financial, weather related) lead to the trip being cancelled. I was still able to have an awesome day out in the lakes with my friend Sammi for Beltane itself, and was able to go to my good friend Anna’s party that night. Beltane is a festival of fire – of passion, creativity, creation, fertility, of things coming to fruition and escaping from their bounds to make their place in the world. This was exactly the sort of boost I needed in my life right now.

The party was great. I’m not usually a fan of big social groups, but this one just hit all the right notes. Including people reading some of their favorite poetry, singing songs, performing, joining in together and making merry. I was very touched that Anna decided to read one of my poems and was pleased to share another of mine with the assembled company. But what really got into my heart that night was Ceri and Chris’ rendition of this song, Dancing in the Dark. It’s one of those songs that everybody knows, but not everybody has listened to the words. I tried to join in with the singing but had to resort to the lyrics sheet to actually know what the words were and I was stunned at how relevant they were to where I am in my life right now.

“I get up in the evening
And I ain’t got nothin’ to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feelin’ the same way
I ain’t nothin’ but tired
And I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby
I could use just a little help
You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark”

Those words echo my own feelings at times, and I see the same thing reflected back in my husband’s face when he’s at his worst. We’re so tired, and we’re worn out with ourselves. Sometimes it feels like all of life is work and sleep and we need something to get us out of this rut. But to do that you need something to light a fire under you. If you’re lucky in a relationship, you can do that for each other, but its hard work when you are both suffering. Sometimes you just need to keep going – even if you’re just dancing in the dark.

“Messages keep getting clearer
Radio’s on
And I’m moving around the place
I take a look in the mirror
Wanna change my hair, my clothes, my face
Man I ain’t gettin’ nowhere
I’m just livin’ in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby I just know there is”

Messages do come to me through music, that’s true, and it’s time to change everything. Time to wipe the slate clean and look at what’s in me underneath all the current stress and worry. I’m looking forward to getting started in the new job. I feel like this is the right one, I’ve not had this sense for a long time and I hope that it is going to be the bridge out of ‘making ends meet’. The thing is though, that there is more to life than just the job. Teaching might be a vocation for me, but it’s not the sum total of who I am. There’s more to me and I need to start embracing those other sides even though they might not be profitable in the short term.

“You sit around getting older
There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me
I shake this world off my shoulders
Come on baby, the laugh’s on me”

You have to find the joy in life and keep fighting against this stuff that gets you down, otherwise what’s the point? You just exist until you get older and where’s the fun in that? You have to accept that the universe has a sense of humour and that yes, you’re the butt of the joke. But if you can share that joke with someone, then you’re on your way. The greatest joke in my life right now is that I am too busy to find the time to live and I am worried that life is just going to pass me by if I don’t get my head out of myself and stop to smell the roses and do the things I really want to do. This Beltane, I had a good talk with myself and finally admitted what I really want to do.

“Stay on the streets of this town
And they’ll be carving you up alright
They say you gotta stay hungry
Hey baby I’m just about starving tonight
I’m dying for some action
I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
come on now baby gimme just one look”

At the Symbel at Beltane, I greeted an old patron in the form of Hecate, toasted to one of my great heroes and, finally, I raised my boast. It’s dangerous to ask for blessings from the Gods at this time of year, because it is the time of the tricksters and you never know what you might be granted wearing the shape of your heart’s desire. But I made my boast. My promise. It’s time for me to admit to myself which book I’m writing. Literally. I have three ideas for good novels and while I’m happy to talk about two of them, its the third that I have been writing steadily this year, to the tune of almost 28,000 words so far. It’s not the one I had in mind at Samhain, or at Yule, but it is the one I am writing and it’s time I got my head down and worked it out properly.

I started creating this world and formulating this story ten years ago. Looking at the dates on the original files really made me stop and think about that. This idea hasn’t gone away and while my first drafts might need massive overhauls, I am still working on it and I find myself thinking about it at quiet moments, plotting scenes and then writing them up like guilty pleasures.

It’s a romance story. Set in a fantasy world. And I’m almost ashamed to admit I’ve been embarrassed about that. Because it’s not the big literary story I had in mind. Not the sort of novel I would have studied or read at University as part of my literature studies. It’s not a set text, not something that will be remembered by exam boards in fifty years. But it is the book that I would like to read, more than once. And enjoy reading more than once. And perhaps I need to stop setting my sights on the approval of the academic market. Just as much as I need to let go of the negative opinions I got in response to the idea 10 years ago when I first spoke about it. I’m not in this for the praise, nice though it is, and this book is going to attract its fair share of criticism as well as hopefully getting some fans. But it is the sort of book I would like to read.

It’s not the book I dreamed of writing, but it is the book that I AM writing and that’s good enough for me. It might be good enough for other people too.

It’s worked before. Professor J R R Tolkien once wrote to C S Lewis saying “If they won’t write the kinds of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves.” He had a point. Nobody else has written this story and I want to read it, so I am going to have to put my mind to it and finish it. They aren’t the only people who have made such comments. Gaiman once commented when asked for advice on writing that people should “write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. 

I guess, when writing this book, that I need a love reaction from myself. I need to be open minded enough to enjoy my own writing, to admit which parts I enjoy and put my heart into them rather than holding back.

“You can’t start a fire sitting ’round crying over a broken heart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark”

So let them come with their poor reviews and criticism and the sneering notion that it should have been done differently or better. Because they won’t write the books I want to read and I have the stuff in me to do that. This is the book I am writing. It’s the one I want to read. And I am determined to finish it. Even if I am just dancing in the dark.

For this week’s Song Of The Week, I’d like to share a new version of this song. Everyone knows the version by The Boss, but this one is a cover by a singer called Amy MacDonald, and this live version was recorded with a full orchestra. It’s beautiful. Not so large and bombastic and 80s shaped as Bruce’s version, but there’s a certain tinge of heart and soul and passion in this one that speaks to me. The same qualities were there when my friend Ceri sang it at Beltane.

I hope that you will enjoy it.

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