Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Everything I need to know I learned by watching "American Idol" by Syndi Powell


I have to admit that I'm a huge fan of "American Idol". I love the idea of people pursuing their dreams and testing their talents in front of an audience. But more than that, I've discovered some life lessons (and even some about writing!) by watching the show.

1. Know who you are. The people who tend to win the show know who they are as an artist. They know the music they like to sing but they also know what their voice can do. They know what they want to do and where they want to go. They make purposeful choices based on that knowledge and don't let fads or whims dictate who they are.

2. Know what you are capable of, but push yourself beyond those boundaries. Playing it safe won't crown a singer as the winner. Those who take risks may see some failures, but by taking a chance they are more likely to reach a level of success those that play it safe won't see.

3. Listen to your judges, but don't let their words determine your worth. We all have critics in our lives, those who think we don't do everything at the best of our abilities. Winners are those who can listen to the advice, take it in but use what is true and reject the rest. Listening to everything will make you weaker by losing your sense of self. But ignoring all of it will leave you with a stagnant life where there is now growth.

4. Enjoy your successes but learn from your failures. Even the winners have off nights. The key to being a winner is that they didn't wallow and let those failures define them, but used what didn't work and came back better than before.

5. Being number one doesn't guarantee success. There have also been season winners that we don't hear from after their fifteen minutes of fame on the show. But names like Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Kellie Pickler, and Clay Aiken stand out for a reason. None of them won their seasons but they have gone on to achieve success of their own.  Those who have made a career of music are those that followed the previous steps.

That's what I've learned from watching a television show. What life lessons (or writing) can you pass on?

22 comments:

  1. Syndi, those are all good points that stand an artist of any kind in good stead. I think especially the one about listening to a coach, but don't let them change your work too much. I've certainly seen that happen to writers who have a lot of skill and potential, but who lack self confidence. Sometimes a single critic can make a person so doubt themselves that they give up.

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    1. It's hard to find a balance between learning from the criticism and maintaining your own voice.

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  2. I think the "know who you are" element probably helps those folks who do make it actually keep their sanity. The younger celebs who haven't figured that out yet, often seem to fall prey to the expectations and "unreality" of living life as a superstar. Thanks for the post!

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    1. That is a great point, Dana. If you don't know who you are then it's hard to hang on to what is real and true about yourself and allow trends/fads to take over.

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  4. I love this post, Syndi--so much resonates with me, especially the "know who you are" (like Dana said). I kind of equate that with a writer finding their voice, knowing the stories they want to tell and working to make it happen. I haven't watched IDOL in a long time, but the fact that most of the success stories are those who didn't win the contest...I've always found that fascinating. Almost as if the pressure was off of them, so they had nothing to lose by being true to themselves. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Anna. Sometimes the knowing who you are is the hardest part for an artist. As writers, we may want to write what's "popular" rather than what resonates in our soul.

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  5. I've been watching AI since Season 2! I love the show and there are a lot of valuable takeaways that apply to all artists. One thing they always tell singers is how important song choice is and I think the same is true about the stories you tell. There is a lot of pressure to tell stories with firemen/Navy Seals/FBI guys in them... and I admit- they are very very appealing. But I know they are, ultimately, not in my lane so to speak. I won't be a NYT bestseller because of it, but I'll write the kind of heroes that I feel most comfortable with.

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    1. Karen, that's a great point about heroes in romances. Those guys aren't in my lane either. I like the accountants, business owners, etc. To me, those are the real men.

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  6. I would also add that you can learn from anyone around you (I believe I got this from The Biggest Loser). A child may have a game changing perspective that you hadn't thought of. Your competition may have a strength that you can work toward. And probably my most recent epiphany came from Best Actor Winning Matthew McC (can't spell this early in the morning). He said he'd been chasing himself 10 years from now instead of comparing himself to anyone around him today. Always look to the future and say, "I can. If not today, then someday."

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    1. Melinda, that's another good point. I loved hearing Matthew's speech the other night. My heart warmed when he started tearing up while talking to his wife that it's because of her love and support that he's able to do what he does, that they are the ones he wants to make proud of him. SWOON.

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  7. My first thought is that Idol is one of the shows that won't do well on DVD because you'll know the winner. I never get to watch TV

    Roz is so right. I know writers who seek so much approval on their first three chapters that they never write the book.

    Me, I'd go on Idol in a heartbeat and sing my heart out and then, when it's over, I'd critique myself.

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    1. Pamela, you crack me up. We record the shows then watch them before we go on any kind of social media just in case they reveal any spoilers. And there's a lot of them out there!

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  8. You guys are all so insightful! lol:) I'm just reading...nodding along...taking notes:):)
    Pam-it's funny you mention that because just a few weeks ago I mentioned to Victoria that I actually prefer getting notes on the whole, instead of the first three chapters, because by the time I write The End-I often have to go back and change/improve those beginning chapters anyway:)

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    1. I'm in the same boat. Those first three chapters are a good beginning, but the bigger picture can change by the time you get to the end of the book. I always think I know where the book will take me, but there are always insights on the journey that affect the first pages.

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  9. Trust yourself (I guess that equates to knowing yourself), work hard, keep smiling, and remember that failure and non-success aren't the same thing. Non-success isn't failure until you give up.

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    1. Muriel, that's a wonderful point about giving up. Can you imagine how bland our lives would be if the great writers/musicians/artists had given up after the first rejection? And how much richer would life be if those who gave up had kept going?

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  10. I love the stories like last years winner - who was kicked out in a previous season during Hollywood week but came back and won the whole thing a year later! Never give up. If you don't win this contest or that one, doesn't mean you won't win it the next time if you keep working and keep trying. :)

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    1. So many of the judges will tell the contestants that saying no now doesn't mean no forever. That they heard a lot of "nos" before they got their first "yes". We can relate, right?

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  11. I don't watch regularly, but I love your points and agree that these types of competition shows serve as great examples and lessons for writers.

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  12. Unbelievably, I've never once watched American Idol, but I absolutely love everything you said here, Syndi! This is sound writer advice! :)

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