Saturday, March 19, 2011
5 things writers can learn from American Idol's Casey Abrams
Ok, so obviously I'm not being subtle about my preferences on American Idol this season. Casey Abrams has been the stand-out obvious favorite, at least for me, since his first audition. Before you Idol haters click away, however, Casey has things to teach us even if you've never watched an episode.
1) Be yourself. Absolutely, with no exceptions, and no matter what anyone else says. This doesn't mean you can't take and use constructive criticism, of course you should, but don't forget that YOU are the writer and the ultimate decisions, good and bad, are up to nobody but YOU. Did you watchers notice that in the interviews for the last idol performances, Casey was the only one NOT intimidated by the big-wig producer/director people, the only one really speaking for himself? He knows who he is and won't let The Man deter him from it.
2) Take risks. Introducing Nirvana to Idol is a clear risk. Coming into an audition with a melodica is a risk. Casey is a fearless risk taker and it has paid off. How does this apply to writers? Take risks with your characters and stories. Whatever you consider a risk. Write about events and characters you are nervous about or intimidated by. This applies to marketing too. Stretch yourself to meet new people. Go places other writers have never gone.
3) Have a wide and varied skill set. Is there an instrument this kid can't play? Melodica, base, guitar, piano...I've seen him at all of those, and thats probably not the limit. Write in a multiplicity of genres and learn from them all. Learn how to write successful characters, plot, setting, dialogue, description, etc. The most successful writers will also have some skill in the business side of things: making smart contracts, networking, online marketing, all that good stuff. The good news is that you can definitely improve in whatever area in which you are lacking, which brings me to point number...
4) Put in the time. Practice, practice, practice. Casey wasn't born with ability to sing and play a bazillion different instruments. He probably was born with drive, and put that drive to good use. He must have put in hours upon hours of practice to get to the level he's at. I believe pretty much the most important thing a writer can do is actually write. Put in the writing time. Put in the networking and marketing time too, and time for reading. When you put in the time, the rest will follow.
5) Be relatable and new. Casey has the sympathetic, unique persona down to perfection. He's brought instruments and song choices to Idol that we've never seen before. His logger-man beard, too. His humor, light self-deprecation and fairly average back-story make us like and feel as though we understand him as a person. For us writers, I think this harks back to Be Yourself. As long as your not too uptight and not too stressed about fitting into a slot someone says you should fit into, the relatability and newness will be there. So much so that it will be surprising, if you just let things be. That is what I believe, at least. You'll be amazed how many people like you when you're you.
Hope this helps and happy writing! And of course, vote for Casey!