In color guard, there are two conflicting techniques for how to know where you should be on the field at any given beat of music:
March Your Dots - Know exactly what your position should be for every step–for instance, 3 steps outside the 45-yard line and 8 steps behind the front hash mark.
Guide to the Rest of the Guard - Know that if you’re in a group of guard members creating an arc, you should be able to tell where you belong because you’re forming an arc.
The reality is some combination of the two.
Last week at practice, though, the person next to me in a big chunk of the opening number sat out of the end-of-the-night run-through. She was there all night, and suddenly she wasn’t. And the next person in the group was absent that night. So there we were on the field, all 100+ hornline, percussion, and guard members, and I got totally lost. I couldn’t see the rest of the line I was supposed to line up with. I ended up getting so flustered I skipped about 24 beats of drill, so I was way ahead of everyone else in the music. That means I was in the completely wrong place for the rest of the song, running into brass players, ending up at the front of the field all by myself, finishing way too early–the whole thing was a disaster. Clearly, more of marching my dots was needed there. Yikes.
I think a balance is needed for writing, too. You have to write what you’re passionate about, in the forms and genres and audience range that calls to you. That’s marching your dots, being true to who you are and where you need to be.
But guiding doesn’t hurt, either. You have to be aware of the industry, what other writers are doing, and where you fit in. In fact, it can be really helpful to have a few people to guide by: one writer who is writing the range and kind of books you want to write; another who has created the kind of day-to-day writing career you want; maybe another who promotes him- or herself in a way that you’re comfortable with and can use as a model.
I’m going to see if I can identify one for each of the above categories. I already know the writing one–J. Patrick Lewis. Hey, aim high, right? His range astonishes me, and I love that he makes writing so many different kinds of poetry (and now fantastic easy readers) work for him. And he publishes with tons of different publishers. I’m going to think about the career one and marketing one today.
Do you have any particular writers or illustrators you use as guides for your own career?
(See more posts about my color guard experience here.)