Why Singing is Like Writing

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The complete disaster of my tryout music after months of use. Poor music…

It occurs to me that I do a lot of confessing on this blog (Anime Confession, Writing Confession, Nerd Confession). I sing like a canary (pun not intended) on at least half of my posts.  I didn’t even realize this until I looked back and realized that most of my blog posts begin with a confession. Since I’m not one to frown on tradition, here’s today’s confession:

I am a recovering musician. Why recovering, you ask?

I used to love music. I was in band for years. I took lessons, practiced, worked my tail off. I even majored in music for a year in college, where I discovered that being a music major is actually really boring. The whole bit. And then, out of nowhere, I stopped loving it so much. The drama ate away at any fun I was having— at any love for it. To this day, I can’t decide if the drama was an inherent product of being in high school and college, or if being dramatic and immature is just a personal state of equilibrium that most musicians maintain.

That sounds like one of those controversial topics I should avoid on my blog…

Anyway.

I’ve recently started to enjoy it again. It’s been a slow process, loaded with skepticism and irritation, but it’s happening. A few months ago, I even started singing for the first time, something I haven’t done since I was 7 or 8 years old. And I’ve determined something along with that: Singing is really fun. Singers will probably hunt me down with torches and pitchforks for saying this, but it’s like playing an instrument without all of the hassle. Seriously, have you ever tried to put together a saxophone?

Take it out of the case, make sure no keys are sticking, put the neck on, have a five minute battle with the neck when it refuses to go on, finally get the neck on, breathe a sigh of relief, take half of forever to moisten the reed, do this with five other reeds because none of them are cooperating today, begin the delicate process of putting the reed on the mouthpiece, put the mouthpiece on the horn, cry when all of your efforts are in vain, because it’s just a bad-reed-day.

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He’s smiling now, but just wait…

Ahem.

So. Since I found singing to be so much fun, I wondered what happened in the meantime. What caused me to quit, so suddenly, and without any warning? How did I go from singing solos in my elementary school musicals to refusing in any circumstance to sing? The answer, when I realized it, was simple.

It was because I was afraid.

I was afraid of putting myself out there to be judged by strangers.

I was afraid that I was no good.

I was afraid that no one cared to hear what I wanted to sing.

I was afraid of sharing myself with others— afraid of the mask coming off.

Aren’t these the same reasons we’re afraid to write? To draw? To create?

I’ve been reading this wonderful little book called The Heart of Singing (loaned for free on my Kindle! Score!), and my mind continues to jump back to writing. This, contrary to popular belief, is not because I am obsessed with writing (although I might be). There’s just a hard, unavoidable truth about the fact that singing is very much like writing.

Singers, like writers, are creators. They weave a story with words— with notes and expression. They share a part of themselves with the world. As writers, and maybe even singers or musicians, I think we like to believe that we hide behind a mask— that no one can see through our ‘act’ to the real us. This is untrue. If we do anything with conviction, there is always a portion of ourselves that leaks out onto the paper, or into the song that we’re performing. Because that’s what performance is: sharing yourself with the world.

Writers do this when we tell a story, even if it’s the most far-fetched fiction novel in the world. We are still in that story. Every character we create is a part of us. Artists do this when they create any kind of work. Musicians do this when they perform or compose.

Why, as creators, are we so terrified to do this? Why is it so hard to let go of our fears and perform? I feel like this is the most important step in any performer’s life. We have to stop being afraid of what others think. You have to have the courage to put yourself out there— to risk your identity; to risk losing those masks we all wear. To risk being sincere in a world that continues to undervalue sincerity.

Writing, singing, they’re both art. And art, at its truest form, is an expression of self. It resonates with others because we all have those same universal longings, and we all have the desire to be heard.

I’m not going to be afraid to be heard anymore. I hope anyone who reads this can say the same thing. This quote says it best:

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”          -Marianne Williamson

Let your light shine. Have the Courage to Create.

And that is my cheesy, inspirational post for the week. Thoughts? Feel free to comment below!

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9 thoughts on “Why Singing is Like Writing

  1. As someone who used to perform on stage my self, I think I agree with all that you wrote. I feel like whenever you sing, or perform you are , in essence, forcing people to accept that you are talented and special. Instead of sitting in the crowd like everyone else, the very act of being on stage is a confession to the world that, you as an individual, believe you should be there and what you can produce is worthy of entertainment.

    And that is something you can kinda avoid with other disciplines. You never feel like you are forcing someone to read your next page, or to gaze at your next painting. I feel these are more invitational, where as when you are singing on stage, you are less inviting and more attempting to satisfy. People came and expect something, and everyone is confident in their ability to pick out “bad” music or a “bad” performance, instead of say, a “bad” piece of writing or a “bad” painting.

    “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” This does a better job of what I am trying to say =)

    1. Thanks for commenting! Glad to know I got my point across. Sometimes with stuff like this,I feel like I ramble, so it’s always good to know when something I’ve written has done what it was intended to do. I definitely agree that writing and art seems more removed. Maybe because neither are so immediate as performing on a stage. If I ever get published, I’m going to dread reading my published stuff aloud to people for this exact reason. =)

  2. Your background is oddly similar to mine. I also used to sing solos (7-8 years old), and then just stopped without warning. Creating/performing are scary things, and you’re right, at some point (whether you acknowledge it or not) a part of you leaks out! But keep at it, music can be fun. And singing, though you can carry around the instrument with you (no assembly required), you also can’t replace or buy a new one!!!! And if you’re sick, forget about it. Can’t say much about being a music major (was never one!)–but I know that theory can be PRETTY DAMN BORING.

    1. I thought I remembered you saying something similar about your singing background, but I wasn’t sure. And theory can be fun– when you actually get to use it instead of memorizing it. 😉 It gets better, I promise.

  3. This was such a well written post. In spite of the fact that risk taking is scary, it often proves worth it – if not for the original outcome we intended and hoped for, but for the confidence to repeat the process! I think the quote you chose was a great reminder that we don’t just change ourselves when we step out of our comfort zones, but we often impact others as well, albeit sometimes unknowingly. So, one giant (or baby) step at a time, we fulfill our responsibility to share our gifts and light with the world. Love you:)

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