This month is National Novel Writing Month or #NaNoWriMo for those in the know. This is my first time to attempt the ambitious goal of writing 50,000 words during the month of November. I am also going to post here every day this month along with the novel writing challenge. I already kicked my writing into gear last month by enrolling in a free online writing class through the University of Iowa. There is a certificate that you can earn, but my main goal for the class was to put pen to paper and actually write instead of just talking about it. My other main goal was to finish one complete work of fiction. So far I am faring well on the first goal, but I have started three separate stories and still have not finished one. The class is still ongoing, and I plan to continue on with it while also working earnestly on the last piece I started.
After writing and posting my first piece for the class, an excerpt about a girl starting a new school in a new town, I decided to pivot and write from a different perspective. Then, I decided I hated all of it and never submitted another writing assignment to the class. I did not want to proceed with either piece. I felt stuck. I needed some inspiration. So on Monday I decided to go explore Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
I started out on the trails because nature is one of my favorite places to find inspiration, plus, I needed the exercise. The morning was still cool when I hit the Tulip Tree Trail and then part of the Art Trail. Though I have walked the trails at Crystal Bridges many, many times, I discovered new things on this particular walk. I could hear the sounds of a construction crew and the occasional kid shrieking, but it was mostly quiet enough for me to immerse myself in the natural surroundings. I could hear the creek flowing, leaves falling down from the trees and the crunch of the rocky path beneath my feet as I walked along. I felt inspired almost immediately and decided to come back to the the Tulip Tree Trail Shelter with my notebook to write. However, when I got back to the car to get my notebook, I was suddenly thirsty so I went inside the museum in search of water.
What happened next was pure serendipity. I found that the current temporary exhibit on display is titled, “The Art of the American Dance.” I had a new character forming in my mind already that just happened to be a ballet dancer. I had not written a word of her story at this point, but she was there in my mind. I forgot all about the water I came in to find and walked up to the Guest Services desk, paid $10 to view the new collection (Though there is no cost to visit the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges, there is a fee to view the temporary collections. However, you can visit this collection for free on Thursdays from 5-9 p.m.), picked up a headset and went directly to the gallery.
I have always just walked through the galleries on my own without a guide or an app to tell me about the art. I do recommend using the app (or one of the handsets you can check out) for this particular collection though. It really added to the experience because you are able to not only look at the art, but also see videos of the dances portrayed in the artwork, hear more about the time period the artwork is from, and listen to the music that would have been played. They even have a Spotify playlist you can listen to featuring some of the major dance songs from the 1940s to now. It would have been fun to listen to beforehand to get in the spirit, but I am enjoying it afterwards too. There is also this great playlist on YouTube to watch dance videos from Fred & Ginger, Beyonce, Swan Lake, Singing in the Rain, Westside Story, Elvis and many I have never even heard of before.
Once I had toured the entire exhibition, I grabbed a cup of soup and some water at the museum restaurant and got to work. I filled several pages of my notebook before leaving the museum. I hope to share some of my story here someday soon!