I’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview:
I’m often struck by the similarities between the competition reality shows on TV these days, and life in the publishing environment. The programs bring together hopefuls in an endeavor—baking, fashion, business, movie makeup, singing—and pit them against each other. Along the way, the competitors make friends, make enemies, learn more about their chosen endeavor, and learn about themselves.
The shows are not only fun, they’re full of insights. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking lately as I watch the new season of American Idol.
Some contestants come in with beautiful voices that are unpolished; some have hopeless voices but they’re trying really hard. Some have so much enthusiasm you can’t help but like them, and some are so dull that they could have the most accomplished voice in the world but no one would want to hear it. Some have a sense of entitlement (How could you NOT pick ME?) and others are beautifully humble, surprised that the judges would give them a smile and a kind word. In singing, as in writing, it’s difficult to know how good you are without outside, objective input. And the first time you receive it can be a shock—in either a positive or negative way.
It’s surprising how much the judges can tell from such a small amount of information. You think—how could they possibly make a decision so quickly? They stop the singer after 16 bars; they take one small taste of the cake; barely a glance at the elaborate costume design—and pronounce their verdict. It’s just like when an experienced agent or editor forms an opinion about a written piece from the first page. You wonder how they can possibly have enough information to reach a conclusion, and it can feel a little harsh. But those who have spent years working in a field—learning, studying, honing their instincts—can quickly form an opinion that wouldn’t change even with much more information.
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