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Are Novelists As Good As Songwriters?

February 27, 2012

I’ve been watching “The Voice” on TV since the season started, and I’m surprised to find it difficult to get up and walk away. I’m not a big reality show fan, but I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with dreams coming true. As they interview the hopefuls, I hear so many heartwarming – or heart-wrenching – stories, and I want nearly all the people to win.

Part of it is because of the songs these artists choose to sing. Songs that have made me feel something in the past – hope, joy, sacrifice, humor, a push to be someone better. Somewhere out there, a writer wrote a couple dozen lines of poetry or prose that, when coupled with the right music, pushes the buttons inside me. How did they do that?

And my bigger question – how can I do that?

Inevitably, I think, “You should’ve been a songwriter, Kitty. Those are the writers who are changing the world.”

But then I thought about the book I’m reading right now, Donovan’s Bed by my friend Debra Mullins. I bought it because the Kindle sample made me laugh several times. That’s what I often look for in a book. Then I had a really hard day and desperately wanted an escape. I read the book for an hour or two before I went to sleep and I forgot all about my problems. Even slept moderately well, which hasn’t been happening all that much the last few months.

The next day, to get ready for writing, I put on my headphones and listened to my “I Can Do This” playlist on my iPod. Songs that make me  happy like “Hollywood” by Collective Soul. Songs that make me love being in love like “Smile” by Uncle Kracker. Songs that help me stick to my dreams like “The Climb” by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. Songs that express what I need like “Revelation” by Third Day. I always feel better when I listen to these. Always.

Then another hard day, and a night of trying really hard not to cry myself to sleep. I’m tough. Other people have much worse circumstances. I can get through this. And still the tears made my pillow cold in the dark.

I reached for my Kindle and opened up Donovan’s Bed again. A girl who is determined to rebuild her reputation, and to have a career at a time when many women don’t. A man who recognizes that a career woman won’t fill his needs for children and homestyle cooking, but thinks she’s so cute that he can’t help but tease her. And a whole book of these adorable people making me completely forget my troubles.

At one point, I stopped reading and stared at the ceiling in surprise. I’d forgotten – this is what I wanted to do with my writing. I wanted people to forget their troubles for a little while. I wanted to entertain them, fill them with hope and joy, make them yearn to be a better person.

Exactly what music does for me.

So which one is better? Should I want to be a songwriter or a novelist? A song can cut to the heart quickly and make you feel immediately. A book can make you feel happy and sad and scared and excited for hours.

That’s what good music and good stories do. They make me want to be a better person, with a more complete, abundant life. I want to write stories that do that for other people. Maybe all artists are insecure and vulnerable in this area. It’s not like accounting – there isn’t one right answer, and you don’t hear much about whether you’re doing things “right” or even well. Just ask any of the artists who weren't chosen to continue on “The Voice.”

You can only keep trying, keep working. And I guess that’s what life is all about for all of us.

What do you think? Do you prefer music or books? Or does it depend on the circumstance? I'm really interested in your opinion. 🙂


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