Monday, May 16, 2011

My mad skillz you'll never witness

I am the best singer in the universe.

This becomes apparent each time I'm alone in the car like I was this past weekend. Seven hours of round-trip driving for an RWA meeting in Portland, and each of those hours was spent singing along with my iPod in such perfect harmony, the angels were weeping.

It's possible I misunderstood the reason for their tears.

It's also possible I'm not the best singer in the universe. You see, this isn't a theory I'm willing to test. I would sooner remove the skin from my own forearm with a carrot peeler than sing in front of anyone. Deep down, I realize I am most likely tone deaf. I recognize that when the dog leaves the room after I burst into song, she's not doing it because she's deeply moved by my musical talent.

The thing is, I'm perfectly OK living the rest of my life without having my singing ability confirmed or ridiculed by an outside party. I don't need to sing for an audience to enjoy myself immensely on long car rides. If I keep my skills to myself, I can continue to believe for the rest of my life that I might just be fabulously talented.

I've thought about this as I've attended RWA meetings and participated in various online writer forums and realized there are some people who never seem to finish a book. They might go to meetings or join discussions of craft, but they avoid critique groups like herpes and don't seem to feel any real urgency to submit their work to agents or editors.

On one hand, I can respect that. Whether it's shyness or self-preservation, I have to trust that most writers have a sense of when they are and aren't ready to share their work with others.

At the same time, it makes me sad. What if they really are ready? What if the feedback they might gain from sharing with others would be the thing those writers need to catapult them to the next level?

Sadly, I know this isn't the case with me and my singing skills. I can accept the fact that a music career is not in the cards for me, and I believe every stray cat in the neighborhood just breathed a collective sigh of relief that I have no desire to perform outside the confines of my automobile.

Do you have any skill (and I use that term loosely) you prefer to keep to yourself for fear of having your shortcomings revealed? Have you ever felt that way about letting others read your writing? Please share!

And don't worry, I won't be sharing my singing. You can thank me later for that.

22 comments :

Sarah W said...

I make up song lyrics to other people's music -- filking, I think it's called? Like Weird Al but without the innate talent and showmanship.

I've only shared one outside a small circle of friends and family, and that's because I was triple dog dared.

(I'm also a car-singer, though the kids bathroom resonates better)

German Chocolate Betty said...

Back in the early romantic days (before marriage and the end of romance, haha), my darling husband who can sing competently (not WELL, but sort of Neil Young-y) insisted EVERYONE can learn to sing, even me.

After marriage, he revised that opinion.

I, however, continue to enjoy myself in the car with the oldies stations, or alone at my desk upstairs.

My dog, however, thinks I am FABULOUS, and listened with great pleasure.

So there's that going for me....

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Oh yeah, ditto on the singing. I had a boyfriend who was in the Glee Club in college (back before there was the FOX network) and he actually sang to me in bed one night. I was horrified, because I kind of think he wanted me to join in...which would have chased him off even sooner than my obsessive clingyness did.
My other "secret" skill is pole dancing. Nuff said.

lynnrush said...

I've always been in awe of people who can sing. My husband is one of them. His quartet got to sing at the National Monument during his senior year. Went to state....sings at weddings....all that stuff.

Nothing more intimidating than singing next to him. But yeah, in the car or shower **alone!**, I'm a freaking awesome singer. **LOL**

I have felt that way about letting others read my writing. With my first book coming out it's magnified. But, I try and keep myself calm. I know I can't please everyone with how I write or what I write. People will love and hate the book....We can only do our best. :)

Malin said...

It's interesting because I have a similar but different view on writing vs other things I do. For instance, photographing. I take a lot of photos and I even put them up on an online forum. If I get critiques, or compliments, or favourites it's a plus, but it doesn't really matter much. But when I had my writing up online and received similar (lukewarm) feedback, I was upset.

So, I'm a bit opposite I guess. I don't mind negative feedback on my hobbies, but it's difficult to take them when it comes to writing.

Linda G. said...

If I could sing, I probably wouldn't have to write. As it is, I was driven to extremes by my lack of vocal talent -- I had to find a "voice" that wouldn't make people cringe. ;)

Matthew MacNish said...

I used to be able to breakdance, before I became perpetually pregnant. I'm not going to be sharing that with ANYONE anytime soon.

I never had that problem with writing, but sometimes I wish I did. I think I was too ready to share, too soon. But then again, I did learn a lot from my mistakes ...

abby mumford said...

i am also fantastically tone deaf and as a young girl of 15, i had to sing a solo in the camp's production of THE RESCUERERS. it was "lean on me" and i am still not over it. as such, i refuse to sing in front of anyone -- for their own safety as much as my own pride.

however, if i am alone in my car, i too will sing until the angels weep.

Michelle Wolfson said...

Why do I suddenly feel a crazy urge to get you to a karaoke bar when you come to NYC???

Trisha Leigh said...

I am quite the car singer myself, and have (for better or worse) completely gotten over caring whether other drivings witness this and/or laugh at me at stoplights. This might change if it's ever someone I know in that other car.

I've met writers like the ones you describe, and I think for some of them it's the idea or the practice of writing that's alluring, but getting published isn't a goal they've really faced and thought about. It's hard for me to accept sometimes, that people don't have the same goals as I do, but I guess that's just how it is.

Anita said...

I can't sing or dance, but recently I've done both on my blog. It's awesome letting loose and facing fears. I think writers need to do that, if they ever want anyone to see their work...it's like, People, are you writing a diary or a book?!

Douglas Morrison said...

It's curious how little I want to share my work with beta readers.

I've invented a few things, mostly for clients at an impasse on a project. The part of invention I absolutely LOVE is testing. Coming up with ways to challenge utility of operation of a device or tool, let alone imagining what idiotic ways a person could harm themselves by misapplication. I have some of the funniest (and scary)stories you'll ever hear about these tests, and how easy it was to think "dumb"...

The variety of ways to test are important to establish viability, so why would I resist using similar methodology with my written work?

Oh, I posted a few chapters on my blog for a short time for some sundry feedback and one or two in a writer's forum... I did hand my first book off to a English Literature professor friend, and had fun speaking to a few creative writing classes of her colleagues.

I know I learned more about my writing when I verbalized my "how and why" before a room full of college students. When I learned my first book was making the rounds of the English department, I felt uneasy. Why? This was an opportunity of baseline testing at its purest.

I applaud those that find a trusted group of beta readers that willingly work in tandem with an author. I know this cottage mechanism has worked resoundingly for many, many authors. It is just not something I ever pursued.

Maybe I should? Some of my blog guests have sent me PDFs of their work, in early to latter stages, so maybe I'll send mine to them?

By the way, my duet with Andrea Bocelli singing "Sogno" makes the birds soar... Seriously, after I sing you can't find a bird within a mile of my house. :-)

Great post Tawna,

all the best,

Doug

Tawna Fenske said...

Sarah, I do the same thing with making up alternate song lyrics when I find myself getting drowsy while driving.

German Chocolate Betty, I have certain songs that I totally ROCK. If I'm having a glum day and I'm in the car, I just crank one up on my iPod and start singing along. Voila! Instant good mood.

Teri Anne, too funny about the idea of singing along. That never would have occurred to me!

Lynnrush, yes! I love shower acoustics!

Malin, interesting! I guess we're all hard-wired to know what areas of our lives we can and can't handle criticism.

Linda G, after reading Michelle's comment below, why do I have a hunch we'll someday be dragged out to a karaoke bar together?

Matthew, breakdancing? Now THAT is something I must see!

Abby, ugh, I feel your pain! I'd be scarred, too.

Michelle, there is not enough alcohol in the world to make me sing karaoke. You can try though!

Trisha, I know from Twitter that you and I have similar tastes in music, so I think we should start working on a long-distance car dual.

Anita, singing and dancing on the blog? I'll have to check that out.

Douglas, I always think it's wise to wait 'til you feel totally ready to start putting your stuff in front of beta readers. Nothing wrong with making sure you're prepared.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Therese said...

I used to feel sad for those writers who talk the dream but won't do the work. But I've also been in experimental aircraft groups where most have planes and are pilots but don't fly. Some are aviators, some are builders, and some are enthusiasts. So I look at the writers who don't write as the enthusiasts and this is an industry where enthusiasm is needed.

The writers that will never publish are the builders, and they will bring talent and insight to authors because of their view of the nuts and bolts. Now the writers with a dedication to publish and build a career, they are the aviators.

The aviators (authors in book world) do it all and actually put themselves in the pilot seat and soar. Aviators also feel sad for those that don't reach the sky but they know that the level of passion for aviation may be different but at least there is a passion.

Lynda Elkin said...

I am still stuck on your skinless forearm. I think I need to lay down. I must have the "talent" of visualizing.

Lindsay said...

I will be rigging Quelf to ensure you get a singing card next time. :)

Danica Avet said...

I also have a never-going-to-happen, outstanding music career. I sing and sing and sing. I try not to do it at work, but sometimes it happens and I cringe in sympathy for my co-workers.

I was the same way with my writing. It took me several years to realize that if I ever wanted to get published, people had to actually read it. Once you sort of throw yourself off of that cliff, well...there's no stopping, is there? :) Kind of like if anyone ever recorded me singing and posted it on the internet...*shudders*

Jason said...

Are you in my head? Seriously, so often these past few weeks your posts have been pretty timely when applied to the timeline my writing is on.

I finished the first draft of my book. I like it, but I know what needs work. After I go over it a few times with tweaks and adjustments as needed, I can't wait to show it to someone for feedback. I actually shared each chapter as I finished them with a couple people, just to see if I was totally insane with things.

I have no issues with sharing my work, but I've also been doing it for years (just not in novel form), so that's not new. For me, this is why I'm writing - to share it. Hopefully professionally.

Claire Dawn said...

Were you talking to me?

I have 3 'complete' MS's - I've finished their first drafts. Not one of them has a second draft.

I reread the book decide it's horrible, or not the direction I want to take my career, and/or etc...
(MS2 really is horrible though. It gives me the shivers. I feel like it's one of those things that some day I'll be rich and famous and someone will find it on a hard drive soemwhere and exile me.)

Whether or not my readons for giving up on MSs are legit. I never have anything submissable (although I have been critiqued...)

:(

Emilia_Quill said...

My BF started reading my book a month ago. I was horrified when he said he's going to read it, since it isin't even finished, but he has liked it and even finds it weird when I said "I invented Drer at Duckrock in 2006" because Drer feels like a real person. Nevermind he's a shapechanger who eats the dishes instead of washing them.

I think I was 16 when I first sang to my mum and she insisted I hone my talent by taking classes. Before that I wouldn't sing to anyone. Nowadays I get compliments from strangers and karaokehosts. One even said "When we picked this song for we wondered who could sing it. We should've known it was you"

Even with all the great compliments I still feel nauseated, dizzy, over all like a deer in the head lights before I go to the karaoke stage. I've even fainted on stage several times because I was so nervous.

Luckily I have the talent of falling down without hurting myself. Somehow it works even when I'm unconscious.

Harley May said...

I'm sure you're a lovely singer! Wish you'd got on stage and broke it down to Big Butts (or something) with me when you were in Tampa. Oh, goodness me.

Simon C. Larter said...

So...you're not going to participate in my karaoke roadtrip next Spring? This makes me sad.