So You Think You Can Write

There are a lot of debates about whether writing can be learned. I think, to some extent, it can. But there’s an inherent talent to being a good storyteller that can’t be taught, and can’t be learned. You can either do it, or you can’t. If that spark is missing, it’s not going to spontaneously appear. But a spark isn’t all it takes.

Mike and I were talking about So You Think You Can Dance the other night, and saying how the audition shows and the “Vegas Week” episodes are just so much tighter, so much higher quality than the American Idol shows. I personally think it’s because to be a dancer, you have to go through years and years of training. No one gets to Vegas week without having some talent and having paid their dues.

But on American Idol, anyone can open their mouth, sing a song, and make it to Hollywood. Sometimes those people even make it to the top 20. But on the dance show, everyone has already done the time. This is just another audition. You don’t see many of the loud-mouthed, bleeped-out swearing, “I’ll show them! I’ll be famous one day!” people on So You Think You Can Dance. Hardly anyone on SYTYCD is expecting instant fame.

There is no such thing as “instant” fame.

Writing (and seeking publication) is kind of like trying out for American Idol. Everyone who can write a sentence thinks they can write a book. And just like on American Idol, people are furious when their talent — clear only to them — isn’t seen by the rest of the world. It’s the agents, with their stupid guidelines! It’s the publishers, who won’t accept un-agented queries!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing people who don’t make it to Hollywood Week. There are scads of talented people who don’t make it to the top 20, who go back to work, hone their craft, and come back again.

But there are more untalented people who blame everyone else for their failures, or who spend years and years never learning anything, blaming the system.

Has anyone but me seen Center Stage? (Yes, I have horrible taste in movies.) There’s a scene where an arrogant, mouthy dancer (played by Zoe Saldana, well before Avatar) is frustrated that the choreographer won’t pay any attention to her, because, despite her talent, he doesn’t want to put up with her attitude. One of the teachers pulls her aside and tells her that there will always be choreographers like him. She says that the bad dancers blame the choreographers. But the real dancers, when met with rejection, always go back to the barre.

I guess real writers go back to the page.

2 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Write

  1. I procrastinated starting “my writing career”–an illustrious one thus far :-)–because I wasn’t ready for criticism. I wasn’t ready to feel like I’d failed at something when the first person said, “Oh, Sweetie. No. Just…no.”

    But when I finally said okay, I’m going to do this, and started getting criticisms (constructive and otherwise), I realized either I had to suck it up and try harder, or I had to quit. My writing *and* my attitude have changed over the past few years. Practice won’t ever make perfect, but it will at least keep me off the out-take reel of contestants who flip off the cameraman.

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