Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Survival of the Unfittest

(Read it...I swear, I'm going somewhere with this....)


I'm going to just come right out and admit it...I watch American Idol.

I didn't always. For five seasons I steadfastly refused to watch it. Reality TV makes me distinctly uncomfortable you see. It's like...seeing your grandmother in her underwear or catching the Principal picking his nose. It makes my guts clench and my cheeks burn with empathetic shame. I find it puzzling and disconcerting that we find so much entertainment in the humiliation of our fellow human beings.

And yet, last season, I allowed myself to be sucked into the hoopla and melodrama by my husband and children. I still squirm with embarassment, and sometimes even cover my face, but the horror is accompanied by a sort of stunned fascination, and that, I suppose, is why Reality TV has become such a pervasive part of our pop culture.

Last night during the "Best of the Rest" show that concludes the audition phase, there were several poor contestants featured who were abysmally bad singers. There are varying degrees of ineptitude of course, but these folks were posessed of such a fundamental lack of talent that it was actually painful to listen to them.

And yet in the face of scathing criticism, ruthless rejoinder and unequivocal rejection, several of these individuals professed such passion, such love, such dedication to singing that they would never give up, never stop chasing the dream. Never. Ever.

Wow.

I was torn between abject pity and profound admiration.

And that really got me thinking....When does a person give up a dream, if ever? And who's to say that a dream is the wrong dream?

Take writing, for instance.

There's not a writer out there that doesn't dream of their own byline, or a slot on the New York Times Bestseller list. But is that what really drives us to write? I don't think so.

There are a lot of reasons people write.

Some are just born storytellers and write for the pure joy of spinning a good yarn. They bring wit and whimsy to their craft; captivating us with their imagination, transporting us with their vision.

Some write to mark their passage through this life. They leave behind something to let others know who they were. But not a simple record of events. No...a true memoirist injects his life story with humor, humanity, love and truth. And when we open the pages of a compelling memoir, we walk as one with he who penned it.

Some write to voice thoughts and opinions. They are awhirl with ideas, questions and theories. They endeavor to explain, elucidate, enlighten. They provoke thought. They challenge us to think and rethink, to never stop learning, to never stop asking why, and how and if. "The pen is mightier than the sword" is their legacy. These are the people who change the world.

What then is fame, when we do not write to live, but live to write? Not sing to live, but live to sing. Not heal to live, but live to heal?

Should we abandon our passion simply because we are not posessed of vocational prowess? Or should we just be thankful that we have a thing that brings us joy and then live it, do it and love it?

I suppose, for some, the pursuit of fame and fortune itself is a passion. It's what gives them meaning and purpose. And this, I fear, is a mean and ignoble taskmaster; one which will settle for cheaply bought notoriety, and dismiss the value of hard won fame. If the joy lies in achieving rather than doing, there can be no real satisfaction.

Which is the really the point, I think.

There is a woman I know, a long time family friend, who has written two novels. There are any number of adjectives and epithets I could employ to convey how badly they are written, but the simple truth is that they are just awful. Reading her writing always inspired in me that grandma in her panties feeling. I confess it is she who always springs to mind whenever I begin to contemplate my own journey as a writer.

When she had completed the first novel, she set about trying to get it published. She was summarily rejected and ignored by every agent, editor and publisher to whom she appealed, until at last she happened upon a do-it-yourself publication operation, who, for a price, would edit and publish her book, and even print a small number of copies. Distribution and promotion were not part of the package, and so, with cheaply bound novel in hand, she began her own marketing campaign, contacting booksellers and libraries to arrange signings and appearances.

My mother was horrified.

She realized that the woman was setting herself up for heartbreak and ridicule. The woman's husband of many years stolidly supported his wife, thinking her a quite talented author. My mother felt that it was encumbent upon her to be honest with her friend, but she could not think of a kind way to tell her that the book was terrible and that nobody would ever buy it.

She agonized over the problem for quite some time. The woman, knowing my mother is an avid reader, continually sought her opinion, obviously looking for encouragement and support. My mother was loathe to hurt her feelings, but also very reluctant to be dishonest with her friend.

It was quite a pickle to be in, and she talked to me about it often over the course of several months. After a lot of thought, she decided not to tell her friend that she was an awful writer. She would not offer disingenuous praise, but instead, provide constructive feedback. When I asked her why she said simply, "She loves writing. I can't take that away from her."

She went on to say that it wasn't her place to decide if the woman should write or not. And when it became very clear that the lack of sales and some pretty harsh criticism neither bothered nor discouraged her friend one whit, I had to agree with her.

The woman did not write for the fame, the accolades or the money. She wrote for the right reasons. She wrote, and still writes, because the act, not the result, brings her joy and satisfaction.

That heartens me.

Because I have worried about losing my joy in the face rejection and failure. I have worried about killing my dream with ambition.

Am I saying that we should never reach for anything, never aspire to greatness? No. Absolutely not. I think I am saying that it should not be necessary to be happy and fulfilled. Because fame is fleeting, after all. It's mercurial and merciless, as anything determined by public opinion is bound to be.

So sing, Idol rejects, and Simon be damned. You are the lucky ones, I think. Your dream will survive and endure.

So should they all.

So.

Should.

They.

All.

8 Comments:

  • At 7:03 AM, Anonymous wyo said…

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

     
  • At 10:12 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    I might have to be a convert and watch after seeing Dream Girls - Jennifer Hudson blew my socks right off she was so good.

     
  • At 12:51 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    I share your skepticism of reality tv.

    Any other writer, and I might have passed over this post. But I know that you find insight and inspiration in the seemingly most unlikely of places.

    This was beautifully realized. Here's to the journey and not the arrival!

     
  • At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    I think you mentioned this to me briefly another time --- and it does make one think about writing and where it comes from. I will say that here in my own little Mayberry I've been experiencing a tiny bit of notoriety now that I've had three articles published. The word seems to have gotten out and the community in which my children and I have flourished is embracing me as a writer. It's very cool --- but I didn't need any of it to write - and will keep doing so when it stops. Oh, it has. I am just hoping it starts again at some point! You will be fine ---- you are NOT your mother's friend in any capacity.

     
  • At 4:54 PM, Anonymous jen said…

    perfect.

    sometimes our best dreams are the ones we keep inside and make happen.

    i can't watch that show, but still, i loved where you went with this.

     
  • At 8:01 PM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    WOW. I saw that episode, and was leaning to the side of pity/horror/disbelief, but you make an excellent point. Letting people have their dreams is no small mercy - it's being generous of heart. We should all aspire to such generosity - and to being such committed dreamers.

    I will look at those AI "rejects" a little differently now.

     
  • At 1:49 PM, Blogger Pendullum said…

    I fear I cannot be a part of 'reality' as I/we do not have cable... Instead my life is filled with old movies where life can be neatly tied together in two and a half hours... without commercials...

     
  • At 10:44 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    This is a fabulous perspective. I think the writing analogy is spot on.

    I can't say however that there is an audience for every performer, nor for every writer. I can see where you've just "gotta sing," but not everyone is an Idol. Some are wedding singers. Some are shower singers.

    The question is, can you be happy singing (writing) just for yourself or do you need the success with it? It's what bloggers seem to discuss daily.

     

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