Whose music are you dancing to?

July 6, 2021



This is, in fact, the life experience of many creative souls, from Van Gogh and Hemingway to writers I know and yes, even me. Even me.

Not everyone gets us. I think it’s because they don’t listen…they fail really take us in. Because isn’t it true that most people listen with themselves in mind, not to take us in? That’s what I notice, anyway.

Some of us are driven to create by music unheard by others–which is in fact, what makes the creative process for each artist so different, so…well…”creative!”  Because we really do see things differently than most and it’s that difference and the ability to express our experience that makes art.

Emotion drives creativity

I know any number of creative people who have felt misunderstood their entire lives. Or alone. Distanced. Separate. So many that I think it might be a pre-requisite to create art, music and literature.

This used to bother me more when I was younger than it does now. I think when we’re young there’s a big part of us that wants to fit in, even when it’s clear that we do not. As we age, if we’re lucky, we begin to see the benefit of forging our own path and its beauty.

I wonder if it’s this that sparks the creative process.

Vulnerability plays a role

Thinking right now of memoir writers. We’re expected to show vulnerability, to expose ourselves in ways that most people wouldn’t dream of doing. It’s risky. It can be painful. And yet, it’s that exposure that provides the common ground for a reader to say “Yes! That’s how I felt!” or even to look at others they know differently.

A recent solo performance piece I did exposed some of my deepest vulnerabilities, things about my life i only rarely spoke about. The idea of writing it down–much less performing it–would’ve shocked younger Carol. It is very raw. And yet, here I was, opening the curtain on my life in a big way. Taking a risk I would never have taken when I was younger.

But it was THAT process that is getting my stalled memoir moving, however slowly. When I began it more than a decade ago it seemed flat; more like an autobiography than a memoir–a list of things that had happened to me. It’s lain fallow all these years.

After an incredible 10-week solo performance workshop, the true through-line for the memoir revealed itself and that allows me to begin again, but with a different angle.

Not as planned

It’s the last week of a writing retreat I’ve taken in our second home. The objective was to kick of my memoir. Just like life, it didn’t work out the way I’d planned. Malware attacked both my websites and the entire month was about dealing with that. So I did nothing on my memoir.

I DID, however, work on my next performance piece for class, which is a hilarious comedy. It’s great fun–and way more fun than sitting down with my memoir. I open myself now to the possibility that this is my current way forward–writing and performing my life in the comic way it has unfolded.

With this new piece, I was able to let myself dance with joy and laughter, to laugh at myself and make others laugh with me–even as I admitted to myself that I hear music that others do not. And it is so much fun!

The ability to dance to music only we hear is often a mature person’s game. We seem to need that life experience to stop thinking we have to be any particular way, that we have to meet anyone’s standards but our own.

And we have to be old enough to have developed our own standards.

Sure, some people can do this younger, but most of us cannot. We need that seasoning of age to get there. We need that confidence of age.

So, I wonder: what music do you hear … and are you dancing to it yet?



11 comments on “Whose music are you dancing to?
  1. Laurie Stone says:

    I think creativity is a wonderful gift. Everyone has it, but not everyone wants to see it in themselves, for some reason. Maybe it was fate to work on your performance art. That sounds like the direction you were pushed in. Would love to see it!

  2. oh no…technology is great when it works, I hope you got rid of the Malware and are back to writing your memoirs.

  3. Diane says:

    This struck such a chord with me, Carol! I’ve always danced to music no one else can hear.
    In fact, it’s just been recently that I began to understand myself and it was through watching a show on TV called Castle. If you don’t know it, the plot revolves around a mystery writer shadowing an NYC police detective. It was in watching this writer and how he thinks that I finally understood me! Understood my mind that hastens off in all directions at any given time. Firing off ideas faster than light. I think like a writer! It was quite an epiphany for me.
    Some day I want to be in the audience for one of your shows. AND to read your memoir! Keep dancing, my friend!

  4. madhvi says:

    I’m dancing to my own music for sure!

  5. Jennifer says:

    I’m prog rock in the time of hip hop and pop.

  6. As an actor for over 40 years, I’ve always played to my own music. I’ve had to be creative to survive through many challenges even though certain relatives think I should get a “real” job. But why? Especially now. I’ll just keep getting by, by the seat of my pants instead.

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  1. […] And why so many artists of all kinds have been considered, well, “crazy?”  In “Whose Music Are You Dancing To?”  Carol Cassara discusses Nietzsche’s observation about the special senses creatives have and how […]

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