megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
[personal profile] megwrites
As much as it pains me to admit it publicly, I am somewhat watching the American Idol auditions. In my defense my husband is the one watching (he apparently likes having his faith in humanity smashed to bits) and since we only have one TV and a really small apartment...

Point being, it strikes me that the auditions that the contestants go through have some parallels I think writers can learn from. And yes, I know I'm hardly the first to draw this comparison.

One thing I've noticed is that the successful contestants have some things in common.

One, they've all been at this a long time. Most all the ones going on said that they've been singing, and getting training in singing, since they were quite young or at least for several years. Even the very young ones have said that singing has been something they've done even before they thought of making it a career.

Two, the really good ones come in with a real sense of humility. Sure, they're confident and they have fun with the judges, but there isn't a sense of entitlement. In fact, many seem surprised to be picked at all. The really horrible auditions come from those who seem to think that yellow slip ought to be handed to them just for showing up and singing really loudly.

Three, the great ones love what they do beyond the contest. You could see that even if they got four straight nos, they would go home and polish their craft and keep singing and keep loving music. The bad ones seem like they only came in because they thought they could get quick, cheap, easy fame and fortune out of it. For instance, the guy who came in and looked like he was a few seconds away from taking a gun to the top of a clock tower because he had to wait for three hours in the waiting room. I laughed and said, "Don't ever become a writer, kid, because waiting for responses will snap you like a twig."

Four, the good ones got honest opinions from people who knew their stuff and listened very intently to the feedback the judges gave. It was nearly universal, when the judges spoke, the good contestants were practically holding their breath so they didn't miss a word. The Anime!Girl, on the other hand, asked how she could get turned down when her family and friends and her voice coach all said she was wonderful. I find myself doubting that her voice coach said that, and if that coach did, they should be fired. And then set on fire for bald-faced lying. Others as well noted, "But my family says I'm good!"

Five, the great singers were all themselves - but the best possible version of themselves. The worst ones seemed to think that rolling out of bed and showing up would suffice. The great ones had found the aspects of their personality, their looks, and themselves that could appeal to the judges. They found a line between being themselves and being accessible, likeable, marketable.

Seems to me that the writers who make it and do really great work are a lot like great contestants, and those beginners who progress onward to a professional career come in with the same humility, polish, and honest talent that the great singers do.

So while I'm wincing over the very bad auditions, I'm also reminding myself not to be those bad contestants. Not to feel entitled to a yes from an agent/editor, not to step up unless I know that I'm putting my best foot forward, and not to forget that while the career aspirations are nice, it's still about the writing.

Because here's the thing - even if I get nowhere, I'm still going to write. I'm still going to tell stories, because I love this. I love books, I love literature, I love fiction, I love writing. I want to make a career of it because I think I've got some wonderful tales. Are those tales ripe at the moment? Maybe not. Maybe I need more work, more polish, more practice - if so, full steam ahead. No one owes me a career or a chance, so it's important that I have something worth giving a chance to.

Which means listening carefully to criticism, always polishing my craft, and continuing to love what I do no matter what.

Because, luckily, writing differs from American Idol in that you don't have to be a perky, pretty blonde 16-year-old girl with an angelic voice. You just have to have a great story, patience, and a cast iron will.
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