like American Idol. There, I admit it. This week’s
episodes were pretty good, maybe even the best in three years. Not so
much because of the, um, “talent” but because of the judges. I mean
there were a few young people with great pipes, and I still think a lot
of the really ridiculous auditions are more for shock value than
anything else, but it’s fun to watch.
I was a little disturbed at
first when I heard that Steven Tyler was going to be a judge. I
thought, Oh brother, another rocker sold out to the man, to
the masses All of a sudden this unabashed, big-lipped,
pulsating, gyrating, screaming, singing, amazing Aerosmith rocker was
up there, or perhaps down there, with Ozzy Osborne and Gene
Simmons—old, worn-out rockers with nothing better to do than act like
idiots on national television. But, honestly, Steve did not suck.
fact I thought he was funny, a bit over the top at times perhaps, but
gracious, even caring. I thought Jennifer Lopez was fantastic (gosh,
she’s beautiful), and I’ve always liked Randy Jackson. He’s been kind
of a stabilizer over the years. So here’s to what I am hoping will be a
great season of American Idol. Because I will say I
was and still am prepared to stop watching this year if it becomes as
awful as last year and instead, oh, I don’t know, write a book.
What is it that I like about the
show? First, I see many parallels between the show and writing. Newbie,
wannabe writers are so eager to put their stuff before the judges
(read: editors, agents) only to so often have their dreams destroyed,
ripped to shreds, manhandled, and dashed like waves against a craggy
There is something indomitable
about the human spirit that wants to create joy and goodness, beauty
and art so that even folks with no skills, no musical ability step out
and give it everything they’ve got in the hopes that they might have
“it,” that elusive mixture of talent, skill, ability, knowledge, guts,
ego, and self-loathing that mixes together in some otherworldly alchemy
and produces art.
I like what G. K. Chesterton
said in Fiction as Food: “Human beings cannot be
human without some field of fancy or imagination; some vague idea of
romance of life and even some holiday of the mind in a romance that is
a refuge from life.” This is one reason many hopefuls show up at these
auditions; they know that music, art, is a refuge, a holiday of the
mind. Don’t get me wrong, some people see this opportunity as a quick
way to becoming rich, but still, I would argue that even in the darkest
heart is a speck of light from God. All art is a search for truth.
I enjoy watching the judges critique the audition. I have learned a lot
over the years. As someone who is often asked to read and critique a
new author’s work, I took lessons from the Idol
judges. I learned to be a little more gutsy in what I had to say.
Sometimes you have to take the Band-Aid approach to a critique and just
tell it like it is. Rip it off, let it sting for a bit, and then
hopefully the writer will move on with her life, or go back to the
drawing board, or keep practicing. That’s not to say I’m mean-spirited
or cavalier. I believe all critiques need to be salted with kindness.
But I’ve learned that encouraging someone down a road their not ready
to walk is not good for anyone.
the years I watched American
Idol, the judges have delivered compassion and frustration
and joy to the hopefuls. And when the talent was so terrible, sometimes
couldn’t contain their derision. Yeah, that happens in the
writing world also. I know those fifteen minutes of appointment angst
can feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest through your
nose. It’s tough. But, hey, like Mama Flossie always told me, “When you
tiptoe through the rose garden of life, be sure to wear long
Every so often a manuscript
crosses my desk that shines, that shows potential and true talent. This
brings me great joy. I love discovering real talent just as I believe
the American Idol judges do. And I have done
critiques for folks in which I sent them back to the drawing board;
then one day, what had been an ugly duckling of a manuscript became a
thing of beauty.
Being creative is as natural to
humans as breathing. Abraham Kuyper said, “As image-bearer of God, man
possesses the possibility both to create something beautiful and to
delight in it.”