Monday, February 11, 2013

A Writing Lesson From the Grammy Awards:

I watched the 55th annual Grammy Awards Show last night along with 55 billion other people. I'm not entirely sure that's an accurate viewership figure but I don't really feel like looking it up. And besides, it's got to be somewhere in that ballpark given that The Grammys show is truly the best of all the shows during this awards-saturated season. How could it not be? It's ten percent awards presentation and ninety percent kick-ass performances! Except for that weird Forrest Gump ballad by Frank Ocean. So maybe it's more like eighty-nine percent kick-ass and one percent, "Huh?" (If that's even how percentages work. Math is really not my thing, as I have previously discussed in this blog entry here.)

While watching the show, I was thrilled to see a group that I've enjoyed for the past year win Best New Artist of 2012, among many other awards they took home. That group's name is fun. . <--Seriously. That's their actual name, period included, and not just an adjective I'm using to describe their name. 

(Interesting fact: Fun.'s original name did not include the punctuation mark. The period was added when they were forced to change their name after finding out that "fun" without any punctuation was already taken. True story. You can find a link to an interview here where they talk about it.)

fun. accepting one of their many Grammy awards for 2012
During his acceptance speech, Nate Ruess, the lead singer of fun., basically said how thrilled they all were to win Best New Artist, but that in a way it felt strange given that they've been performing together as a band for many years now. This triggered a discussion between me and my husband about how, with the exception of Kelly Clarkson and maybe a few other truly over-night acts, most Best New Artists have been in the business for a long time before finally finding this level of mainstream success and validation. Which got me to thinking: really, aren't all the great successes in life simply the people who didn't give up when they failed? 

As a long-time writer with very limited success so far, I feel there's a big lesson to be learned here. I started writing for the love of it in Mr. Roberts' class in the fifth grade (as far as I can remember). I carried on with this passion through high school as editor of our school paper, but then lost my way a bit while in college. I picked up with my writing again in 2005, with serious intentions of becoming published, and I haven't given up since, despite my lack of mainstream success.

My journey hasn't been without small validations along the way. The support of my family, especially my husband and kids, has played a huge part in my refusal to give up, but the support of "strangers" has been equally important. Critiques that I've received during various writing conferences and retreats; feedback from the critique partners I've been lucky enough to know for years now, and who have all become people I'm honored to call friends; even the crits that I've won from online contests, such the one page crit I won just last night from writing guru Joyce Sweeney, have all given me moments of validation at what has always seemed to be just the right moment. And these moments have served to remind me that my writing is worthwhile, and that I'm still improving even though I haven't gotten to where I want to be just yet.

By reaching out to these people, by finding like-minded critique partners, attending conferences and retreats, and by simply entering online drawings, I have, in a way, created my own validation machine. I haven't just been sitting around waiting for the world to recognize my greatness and to award me thusly. And I haven't given up on this road to publication just because it's been longer than I hoped it would be. Instead I've done one of the few things that are fully within my power: I've continued to put one foot in front of the other, and I've accepted that I'll never get to the end of this road unless I do. That much is guaranteed. 

And who knows, maybe someday I will make it in the mainstream, and maybe I'll even win something like a Best "New" Artist award of my own. Until then I will simply carry on, and I will continue to have as much fun(.) with it as I can along the way.

How about you? What things have you clung to in order to not give up on your dreams? Let me know in the comments below...