Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Sing With Words

I just watched American Idol on the DVR. I am a little ashamed of this. I didn't even enjoy it. I hardly ever do, but still I stick with it every week in spite of the cheezy karaoke, songs that make me change the station when they play on the radio and predictable critiques peppered with scripted lame jokes. This week was particularly awful with Quentin Tarantino. Could they not find anyone else even remotely music related? But I still watch.

I watch American Idol because I love the idea that regular people who have a dream, some talent and some pluck can make it big. I've bought into that idea so much that I've taken out a second mortgage on it. A regular person can be somebody if they just get lucky and work hard enough, if they have a spark, if they're a star. I grew up on this idea. Oprah convinced me of it. The self esteem movement, popular in schools in the eighties, funneled it down my throat like tequila during a Cancun Spring Break. I can be anything. I can do anything. This is the idea that makes people slap together rafts out of PVC pipe, duct tape and old German cars and cross dark seas, knowing they face execution if they get caught. It's that. With each ocean swell they think "In America I can be a star."

They always talk about people who have "It." I don't know what it is, but I want it. I want someone to look at me and say that I have "It." I want a standing ovation. I want to be discovered like Lana Turner in the coffee shop because someone thinks I have "star quality."

I can't sing. If it's dark and I'm alone I sing in the car, but I can't sing well. No one else has ever heard me sing seriously. When I sing around other people I purposely sing badly so that they'll laugh at me and it will be ok. If I tried to sing seriously and they still laughed I wouldn't able to stand it, so I make sure that can never happen. It's a risk I never take.

Sometimes I wish there were an American Idol of writing. That would be very boring to watch in reality, but imagine for a second that it could exist and that it wouldn't be boring. I think I could get a golden ticket though I often wonder if I could make it past Hollywood week. Would they say I was original or that I needed to decide what kind of artist I'd want to be. Would they overlook me and pick some other blogger who's a one trick pony abusing hyperbole, toilet humor and strike throughs? Am I pretty enough? Would the real stars be the rich kids whose parents could afford to send them to summer programs or do I have enough of a crack baby story to draw in the viewers? Would the audience vote me off? Could I even really make it past the audition or am I one of those pathetic souls who show up in costume, obviously off their meds, convinced that they can break glass with their rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings." Do others cringe when I sing?

I want to stand on a stage and be heard. I want the lights to shine on me, for once; the audience rapt, some in tears. I want applause. I want to show up and throw down and make a song my own. I want to belt something out. If I could do that then everything would be erased: everyone who left me, who said I wasn't good enough, who never loved me. Finally, I would have proof that they were wrong.


Caroline said...

I've got two links for you in response to this (awesome) post.

this one's been going around, but in case you haven't seen it:

Close to what you were saying about "american idol for writing" - LJ Idol: "journal writing" idol!

Jen & Rob said...

Really SW, really? To be honest, I think you're a shining star - I've read about your previous jobs, your early life, your parents, your past relationships and I'm in awe and keep coming back.

I don't think I'd be keen on a huge American audience watching me - that would be far too many minds staring at me.

I'm rooting for you and I won't stop!

Anonymous said...

I sense you are feeling down on yourself.

You ARE being heard, just not at the magnitude of what American Idol brings. We all love your writing. You give me a moment to escape when I need it most. Don't ever give up your dream. I look forward to reading everything you have to say. So, this is my applause to you, because you deserve it.


Anonymous said...

I was lost in your post and thinking I had a comment that
was somewhat relevant, but then
you sang to me.

I was just saying how much I wish
I could sing (we got a new stereo
system and I'm stuck on Sirrius,
(all over the map:)

Honestly, I cannot carry a tune,
I know that, and it makes me appreciate the ideals of 'American
Idol', although this year, I just
watched the first episode this evening and didn't make it through
the Quentin Tarrantino ensemble? where, oh where did they come up
with him, I agree, but maybe someone will educate us on that one.
I also grew up on believing in
working hard and you will be rewarded. Your real life stories
are truly worthy of a book as you
spin each tale into magic.

I wish I found you from way back when you
were wrote about Wide Lawns and
Narrow Minds - I still just have
an idea what that was about, but
I still believe you are sometimes
touching on your blog title in your posts.

Regardless, you seem to have it
all down right to the bass, alto,
and soprano :)

Yes, definitely.Your words sing to me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Your time this summer was
really well spent. I applaud you.

I still would have loved to be a reader from the start of your blog
though, as I am sure you've been
singing all the way along, as you've opened our minds to Millpond and to your family and
friends. (hope that finger heals,it terrifies me to think I
actually used Crisco oil in my teens. )

Welcome to AmericanIdolofwriting status, in my opinion.

I've been enjoying the heck out of you and oh yes, one last thing I remember - I loved the comment
about Spring Break in Cancun.

My Spring breaks were from Canada
straight to where the boys are.
lol. Fort Lauderdale. Didn't
want to leave and go back to Canada the first time I saw a palm
tree, I was hooked.
However, at that time 80's something years , Cancun was definitely
not commercialized anywhere close to the way it is
now. I remember thinking there were
3 nightclubs in the three large hotels
back then, and not a franchise
in sight, not a bowling alley, and
my paradise for a few nights was in Tulum and Belize.

Keep on singing, I am in the audience clapping wildly for you.


Andromanche said...

*huggles...as long as that's cool with you...*

I think you're awesome, and peanut butter to anyone that says otherwise. (I was thinking the kind with salmonella in it, personally...;D)

gmarievaughn said...

"When I sing around other people I purposely sing badly so that they'll laugh at me and it will be ok. If I tried to sing seriously and they still laughed I wouldn't able to stand it, so I make sure that can never happen. It's a risk I never take."

i used to be the same way, even though i CAN sing well, thanks to a childhood spent listening to good music and being forced to be in choirs and, just, learning harmony as a matter of course. really, it's confidence that counts. my boyfriend tends to be offkey, but when he sings softly in my ear as we're drifting off together, i don't really give a crap about harmony, tune, lyrics, the rest. it is what it is :)

Anonymous said...

You sing through your posts....and people all over the world stop to listen.

Jeannie said...

The problem with one person being discovered is the sad realization that there are so many others who never are. And so many more who don't even know they have talent because they've never had the opportunity to try. And then you have total no-talents getting paid millions and wonder why.

I think you know you have talent - you have lots of readers - I keep coming back because you absolutely know how to tell a story and you have good stories to tell. The blogworld may not give instant fame to all and sundry but there are some who are "chosen" for professional writing out of the dregs.

Part of the "it" factor is shameless self-advertising - being willing to put yourself out there in that way - willing to say "look at me!" You can not fear rejection.

I've had folks comment on my blog - only so that I'll come see theirs and become followers - I've seen them gain a huge following in a very short time - because they aren't afraid to invite people and also because they don't disappoint when you get there. There are "famous" bloggers who got famous by starting out the same way.

Anonymous said...

I dont know if you would take this as an insult or a compliment, but your writing reminds me so much of Jennifer Weiner. She is one of my fav. authors, always funny and whitty with a little heartache. I think you are so talented and you have a wonderful "voice" that tons of people love to hear. I for one check everyday to see if you have updated and what crazy story your going to tell next, I love your blog.

Amanda said...

WL- I wish there was an American Idol of writing for you too. You are a WONDERFUL writer. I love your blog, I check it obsessively. Your blog posts are better written and more entertaining then most of the books I pick up.

And you do this all for free. Do you even have ads on your blog? You should. You deserve to get some compensation for the wonderful stories you tell.

I hope if you get published/are published you will find a way to tell us about the book while keeping the anonymity you prefer. I would buy a book by you in a heartbeat.

Thank you for putting so much time and effort in this blog and telling your wonderful stories. You are so talented. I can't wait for the day you are on the NYT bestseller list.

Anonymous said...

Yo, I think you got it goin' on, dawg! That was tight!

Lauren said...

All I can say is... when you are telling a story (like the Tammy story) you totally have my RAPT attention! Everytime I get to the bottom and see "I'll finish this later" I have to groan! I am sure my boss gets mad as I check my blog reader 10 times a day to see if you posted again :-)

Maria said...

You have "It." The American Idol for writers is the blogging world and you're a winner. It's only a matter of time until I can go to Amazon.com and buy your book to enjoy.

I was going to link you the clip of Susan Boyle but Caroline already did. That clip moved me to tears.

All your readers know you're special. We wouldn't be reading if you weren't.

Sundar said...

I often tell my wife, who 'hasn't gotten around' to read your blog, that someday when you are famous, I would look at her and say 'See I told you she'd make it big!'.

Melanie said...

You are already a star. That is blatantly obvious to all the fans of this blog. Remember when you tried to quit the blog? Remember the outpouring of love that made you reconsider and keep writing for us? We still love you that way, and more. I promise.

MtnMama said...

Wow. Well, I think you're a star. It's what keeps me coming back.

I love to write, but I don't want to be under the lights. Sometimes I think that is why I like to write (having acted on stage in my youth) is that I am being judged NOT by how pretty I am (I'm not) but just by my words. It seems fairer and more objective to me, which I like, since life has certainly not been.

Steve said...

I worked for a large brown shipping company a while back, when American Idol first started. My office phone number was very similar to one of the phone numbers used to call in to vote. Every Tuesday night, I would get 25-50 calls from people thinking they just voted for their favorite performance of the night. Most would just hang up after I answered with my perfunctory "Laguna Twilight Scanning, this is Steve." Occasionally, some would be shocked and surprised to have a live person on the other end. One time a lady started arguing with me because her daughter called, I told the daughter she had the wrong number. Then the mother called back saying that this was not a "large brown shipping company" but in fact American Idol and demanded to speak with my supervisor. I didn't have time to deal with this lady so I said "Yes, this is American Idol, who do you want to vote for?" the daughter came back on and told me and I hung up... I subverted the integrity of the democratic process that is American Idol.

Chiada said...

This is really good. I love how you wrote it. I love how you compared writing to singing and your insecurities alongside your hopes and dreams.

And I agree with pretty much all of the comments here already. They all say it: you have "it". You are a star of the writing world.

Michelle said...

I have read every single one of your posts since the very beginning and I would have to say that this post moved me the most out of any of them. Very well said my dear!

Anonymous said...

I think that in a way the blogging world is the American Idol of writing. When you write well, slowly but surely more and more people keep stopping by to read what you have to say. You're surely building your fanbase, you'd have my writer-idol vote (but until then I'll just keep tuning it).

Anonymous said...

WL, you are like the young Alison on American Idol. Youth bubbles out while wisdom simmers, the voice colors every word and the song/story is believable and special. I don't think you can stop being a writer if you tried too - or hide that imagination away in a closet. It would blow up the neighborhood if it got locked up!

Dyanne said...

Beautiful. Made me cry. It is inevitable that you will one day be discovered because you have a God-given gift. I'd like to be jealous, but you're so good that I don't even have the luxury of being jealous...just being awed.

Green said...

I've stopped watching American Idol as of a couple of seasons ago. There's too much talking (Ryan), too many montages, and too much screaming from the audience.

I was always told I couldn't sing. Then a friend, who was a professional singer, complete with an admission to Julliard, told me I had a perfectly fine voice and had nothing to be ashamed of.

Keep writing. I'd totally call in to vote for you. Twice.

Jai Cassimere said...

you would like The Moth, I think. it's a podcast for storytellers...some are funny, some are sad, some are serious...it's all over the board. look on iTunes, or just google it :D

LegalMist said...

Your writing is beautiful. I can't vouch for your singing voice, since I've never heard it, but I will say that I used to feel exactly the same way you do. At birthday parties, depending on the situation (work, versus crazy friends...) I would sing "Happy Birthday" either so softly that no one could hear, or else very loudly and way off key on purpose to be funny, just so people would laugh at that, instead of at my real voice.

Then I had kids and started singing to them. They liked my singing (poor inexperienced souls....), which gave me confidence to try singing "Happy Birthday" with its real tune at my daughter's b'day party. No one laughed. And since then, I sing it at a normal volume and manage to carry the tune reasonably well, and I just feel so much better about it.

You've done much the same with your writing, just putting it out there.

We are not laughing. Well, sometimes we laugh because the stories are funny, but we are impressed with your writing style, your voice, your ability to make us feel as though we are there.... thanks for sharing, and for "putting it out there."

Now maybe you should try singing out loud, too. :)

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