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Archive for February 4th, 2012

WRITING: Perhaps the most accessible art. So what’s your excuse?

When I was single, I always wanted to date a musician. I suppose I romanticized the idea – ever dreaming of having a man write a song for me and serenade me on my birthday. Some dreams come true. My husband is a guitarist who was in a moderately successful band called Dryspell in the early 90s. Evidently, active musicians aren’t the most reliable romantic partners. John tells me I should be glad I didn’t know him when he was in Dryspell, as his whole focus was the band. Girlfriends got part-time attention, if that. He still plays once in a while, although my serenade appears to be lost somewhere on his to-do list.

I, on the other hand, know next to nothing about music. I don’t read music or play any instruments, but I know what I like and I’m able, in general terms, to explain why. John and I have different tastes, too. UK artists like Sting and U2 are my favorites, while he loves the craggy voice of the Boss. One thing we both enjoy is watching the singing competition shows: American Idol, X Factor, and The Sing-Off. So far, we’ve pretty much coalesced around the same contestants, so perhaps our tastes are more similar than different.

One night, I was singing with the radio, and John had the strangest look on his face. “What?” I asked. “Are you saying I don’t sing well?”

As diplomatically as possible, he asked me, “Do you think you’re a good singer?” We still laugh about that.

So the other night, as we were watching Idol, I had to ask, “Do these people really think they can sing? Seriously – what would you tell me if I told you I wanted to audition for American Idol?”

“I might suggest you practice a little?” he asked with a shrug.

The thing I took away from this exchange is that all of the arts are not equal. I’ve often mused about the art of writing, in that it’s the art that seems most accessible to the widest number of people. Take singing, dancing, playing the piano, painting, sculpting … or even the art of throwing a 99-mile-an-hour fastball. None of those is, for most non-artists, a day-to-day activity.

Writing, on the other hand, is something most of us do, to even a marginal degree, almost every day. We text. We send emails. We write grocery lists and notes to our kids. Writing  in some capacity is, for most people, a function of daily life.

This is not to demean writing as an art. Few would argue that Poe’s poetry, Flagg’s fiction, or Simon’s stage plays qualify as anything other than art. Those possessing the gift of word magic obviously stand apart from the rest of us who blog and Tweet every day. On the whole, however, writing is an accessible art, in that almost anyone – provided they have a clear message to share or a story to tell – can create a book, because good editing can work miracles. No, it can’t make diamonds out of dirt, but in general, it’s the concept that becomes the book. For those poor, off-key souls auditioning in front of the whole world, on the other hand, no amount of editing, voice coaching – even a decade of rehearsing – is likely to make them good enough to land a record deal.

On a weekly basis, I meet people who say, “I’ve been thinking about writing a book someday.” Most never do, but it’s not because they can’t. They may believe they can’t – but that’s just an excuse.

If you’ve been thinking about writing a book for a while now but have been buying into your excuses, I issue you a challenge: Hit YouTube and look up a couple of the weaker American Idol auditions. Then wish those folks hearty congratulations – because even though nothing will make them better singers, at least they had the courage to try.

Laura

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