On Writing and American Idol

I was watching the new season of American Idol last night and was struck by the similarities between the thousands of kids who try out for that show and the thousands of authors trying to find an agent or a publisher to look at their book every day.  I was inspired to write this, because it turns out I know exactly how those kids feel.


The day has finally arrived.

I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent preparing for this moment.   Days, probably.  Weeks?  Years?  And now, it’s here.  I can hardly believe it.

I think I’m ready.  Just like the others who are also trying, I’ve sacrificed so much to get to this point; choosing to work on my craft, striving and wrestling with it all by myself, when I could have chosen to spend time with others.

“Come out with us,” they’d plead.

“I can’t,” I’d respond.  “I’ve got to get this perfect.”  They’d nod and walk away, and I’d close the door and get back to it.

Was it the right choice?  I think it was.  At least I hope that it was.  I made this choice because I knew that the future was inevitable.  I knew that one day I would be in this place, about to open myself up to the criticisms of the judges, and possibly their praise, and I needed to be ready.

But what if I walk away rejected?  What if, after making this choice for so long, it leads to nothing?   I would be humiliated, wouldn’t I?  I would have to crawl back home with my tail between my legs and face the very ones who freed me up to come here in the first place.

They would be so disappointed in me…

That can’t happen.  Even if these people about to judge me laugh at me, tell me I’ve wasted everyone’s time, insist that I should not quit my day job, I’ll know they are wrong.  I won’t delude myself into thinking that I’m better than I am at my craft, but I’ll know the truth.  I’ll know what I’ve learned in the process.  I’ll know that I’m a better person, because I’ve tried.

Isn’t that what life is all about?  Trying?   If I’m not trying, then I’m dying.

I’m not ready to die.

It occurs to me that I am the sum of my experiences, not the sum of their rejections.  Do they know that if they reject me, their rejection will not define me?  They will simply become bit players in the story of my life, their parts played by the character actors nobody knows, as the audience watches me use their rejection to become better, both as a person and as a practitioner of my craft.

And I want to be better in both ways for the sake of those people who have shown me patience in this process, who have given me space to be alone so that I can work to be better.  I want them to know that our sacrifices have not been in vain.

The light flashes green.  This is my last chance to turn back.  But why would I even consider that?  I shake my head, bemused that I would try to talk myself out of my own dreams when I stand here at the threshold.

Shut up, I tell myself.  You didn’t come this far to turn back now.

Then I take a deep breath, I open the door, and I boldly step into my future.


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