So my cousin just won The Voice! This is what I learned watching!

voiceIf you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
-Vincent Van Gogh

Dear Writers,

I have already written at least once about watching my cousin, Alisan Porter, compete on The Voice. I have to admit: I LOVE hearing her sing. Well tonight, she WON IT ALL!!!!!!

I also have to admit: it brought out the neurotic in me! I am a reader who often (not always) reads the ending first. I love books for the journey, not necessarily for the surprises. Waiting each week to see who is in and who is out–especially with a vested interest–has been really rough.

So with my nerves pretty much shot, I figured it was time to write about how the process she has been part of has reinforced some things I know about the craft of writing and creativity. (If you know me, you know I can’t resist this kind of thinking!!!) These past few weeks have been  a journey for her. In a lot of ways, it’s been just like writing a book.

1. Success requires RISK TAKING. Ali did not get into the finals playing it safe. She has sung a variety of songs and she has sung them IN THE PUBLIC EYE. (Aren’t we all happy we get to keep our rough drafts to ourselves???) But let’s talk about that risk taking. In taking risks, she challenged herself. She grew. She became a stronger singer. She felt able to share her deepest fears. Not all voters liked every song. But she did not back off her decision to sing any of them. She TRUSTED the process. (She also showed that it is good to be able to do more than one thing well.) When we take risks, we find new characters and stories, we discover why our characters do the things they do. Sometimes, we figure out that they want to do something that we hadn’t even thought of! In other words: go for the high notes!!!

2. We all need SUPPORT. Ali couldn’t do ANY of this without her husband, Brian, and her parents, Laura and Don, to help with the kids AND cheer her on. All of us have family that stand by us and rub our backs and cheer us on, especially when we are in the muddy middle! (On cue: Everyone: KISS YOUR FAMILIES!!! Tell them THANK YOU!!! Remember that nothing hard gets done alone!)

3. There is PERFORMANCE and there is PRACTICE. Each week, the coaches and contestants spend A LOT of time together practicing. Obviously, this is not news to us. We must practice our writing a lot! But it’s a good reminder: even when you have LOADS of talent, talent is not enough.

4. Song choice is important. AKA Story is the boss!  So, this might be stretching it, but stay with me! When Ali sings someone else’s song, she is essentially borrowing a story. She changes some things: the POV. The little details. But she doesn’t change the integrity of the song. In other words, she puts the song first. And she is humble. She LOVES the song. When we work on story, we must often do the same thing! We love our characters. We dig deep to understand them–to know the WHY behind the actions.

Which leads to EMOTION. The key to so much of why she is in the finals!

5. EMOTION CONNECTS YOU TO YOUR AUDIENCE. It’s not your plot. It’s the emotion behind the actions that connect your character to your reader. When you give of yourself, you will find your audience.

Sing it, Alisan!

Last, but not least,

6. All art is subjective. Not every song or book is for every listener or reader. Luck always matters. It’s the intention and heart we put into it that make our creative lives rewarding. In other words, if she doesn’t win, she will still have all the tools she needs to have a great career! That’s important for us to remember, too.

She is a singer because she sings.
We are writers because we write.
We are artists because we make art.

Prizes and contracts DO NOT define us. 

Want to PRACTICE?????

Take a chapter that isn’t working.

  • Now, without peeking, write it in a different POV.
  • Now, without peeking, write it with ONLY dialogue.
  • Now without peeking, write it in FREE VERSE.
  • Now re-imagine that chapter

Happy Writing! Congratulations Ali and Christina and FAMILY!!!!

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