American Idol is in its tenth season and going strong. New judges sit behind the desk, new singers belt out tunes, and new viewers pick up phones to vote for their favorites.
What does this have to do with writing? Everything! If writers pay close attention, they can learn many lessons as they watch American Idol.
- LESSON ONE: Not everyone is ready to have a camera put in his/her face. C’mon now. You know what I mean. Some of those singers are no more ready to stand in front of the judges than some writers are ready to present their work to an editor or agent. Don’t embarrass yourself by thinking you’re “all that” when you haven’t taken the time to learn the craft. Do what you can to present yourself in the best possible light. Go to conferences. Take online writing courses. Establish yourself in a small venue before going large.
- LESSON TWO: When a gifted singer feels “the call” to sing, he or she travels from wherever they are to wherever auditions are being held. Same with the writer. She drives from Kansas to Texas for a conference. She flies from Cleveland to Denver to meet the editor of her dreams. Why? Because she’s driven. She knows in her knower that she must go, just as that singer knows he must make it to the audition site.
- LESSON THREE: Nerves can bring you down in a hurry. You’ve seen those gifted singers fold like a deck of cards during Hollywood week. Pressure can be a horrible thing, even for a truly gifted vocalist. The same is true with the writer. When the pressures of rejection, writer’s block, conference expenses, critique group issues, financial strain, contract woes hit…your nerves can get the better of you. Don’t let them! Make up your mind to stay calm and steady, no matter what threatens to veer you off-course.
- LESSON FOUR: When the time is right, you will be chosen. Don’t you love it when the spotlight hits the right singer at the right time? Feels like magic, doesn’t it? The same is true with your writing. At just the right time, an editor will fall in love with your manuscript. At just the right time, a heavenly light will shine on your work, and agents, readers, critique partners and publishing houses will take notice. Hang on, writer. Your day is coming!
- LESSON FIVE: You will be judged. There will always be those ready to offer advice—some good and some bad—regarding your work. Keep a stiff upper lip when that editor asks for a rewrite. Don’t crater when a reader offers a poor review. Celebrate when you’re told the book/article is great, but don’t let it go to your head. More judgment is just around the corner.
You might never sing on the stage in front of millions of people, but it’s likely your words will appear in print for thousands to read. What a wonderful day that will be!