Weekend Edition – Be Your Own (Writing) Idol Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Be Your Own Idol

idol joeyI have a confession. I watch American Idol.

There are worse things I could do, I know, but spending several hours each week plugged into my DVR definitely feels like a guilty pleasure.

My beau is my enabler. We’ve been watching together for a few years now, and have become self-educated aficionados on the art of the song choice, the correct way to do runs, and the fine balance that must be struck between a great vocal performance and mesmerizing stage presence. What keeps me watching the show is not, however, the display of technical vocal prowess or even the thrill of finding out who wins. What keeps me watching is the chance to witness the transformation of these young performers as they unfurl and stretch into being their own artists.

A couple of months ago, I shared my phrase for 2015: Believe in your own magic. ย I think of this simple phrase often as I watch the American Idol contestants work through the sometimes arduous task of finding (and owning) their unique identities and voices And, I think of how it also applies to writers, from newbies to the uber experienced and successful.

Because art is art. Whether you are singing or writing, painting of dancing, sculpting or acting, or even throwing clay pots, art is only art if you imbue it with your own magic – that thing that is uniquely and beautifully yours. You have to give a little piece of yourself away with each creation. That is what touches people. That is what makes them want to be part of your world.

Having watched hundreds of American Idol performances, I have seen plenty of excellent performances that are technically impressive. I have heard immensely talented vocalists execute flawlessly on tough songs, hitting all the high notes and nailing each run. I have also learned that those performances pale in comparison to the not-so-perfect but deeply unique and heartfelt artistry of the singer who takes a chance on sharing her own magic, her own voice, her own true story.

I have a favorite this season. I have no idea if she’ll be able to take it “all the way” on with the fickle American Idol audience, but I will buy her album (there will be one) whether she “wins,” or not. Her name is Joey Cook, and this is her completely Joey-ized performance of Iggy Pop’s single, Fancy.


I couldn’t adore her more.

I love her style, but more than that, I love her courage and her willingness to be different. I love that she plays a squeezebox and wears 50s-style dresses and dyes her hair blue. I love that I can feel her emotions each time she sings. And, I love watching her gain confidence each week as she slowly realizes that people are loving her just for sharing her own magic.

What magic do you have to share? What’s holding you back from putting it out there?

singerIf you are grooving along with my American Idol/art/writing train of thought, you may also like this post I wrote back in 2011 (I told you I’ve been a fan for a long time!) about 15 Tips To Make Your Writing Sing – American Idol Style. And, hey, if you watch the show, I’d love to know who your favorite is. ๐Ÿ˜‰



What I’m {Learning About} Writing:

Portrait from the BBC article.

Portrait from the BBC article.

Sir Terry Pratchett, the author perhaps best known for his unique and long-running Discworld series, died earlier this week at the age of sixty-six. The BBC News post announcing his passing gives a thumbnail sketch of his career (some seventy books written across a span of forty-four years with total sales in excess of $70million) and his very public battle with rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The only Pratchett book I’ve read is the one he co-authored with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens. It’s one of the few books that makes me laugh out loud each time I read it (and, I’ve read it multiple times). Gaiman and Pratchett were not only colleagues, but also friends. Last September, knowing that his friend’s death was imminent, Gaiman wrote an essay for The Guardian titled, Terry Pratchett isn’t jolly. He’s angry.

In the short piece, Gaiman writes about the fury that drove Pratchett to write so uniquely and prolifically,

There is a fury to Terry Pratchettโ€™s writing: itโ€™s the fury that was the engine that powered Discworld. Itโ€™s also the anger at the headmaster who would decide that six-year-old Terry Pratchett would never be smart enough for the 11-plus; anger at pompous critics, and at those who think serious is the opposite of funny; anger at his early American publishers who could not bring his books out successfully.

I was saddened to hear of Pratchett’s passing. The world has lost a great storyteller. But, I hope that maybe we can find some small lesson in the beauty of how he used his anger to create beauty and laughter and bring a little more truth into the world.

charging knightA while back, I wrote a piece for my business blog called Get Mad: Marketing From Your Dark Side. Gaiman’s essay about Pratchett reminded me of this piece and the power of giving ourselves a villain to fight … a cause to write for.


What I’m Reading:

book ueland want writeCaught up as I have been this week with the idea of excavating and sharing your unique experience and style, I returned to an old favorite – Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. This slim tome is aptly (and, I think, beautifully) sub-titled, “A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.”

There is hardly a page of this book that isn’t criss-crossed with pencil underlinings from previous readings. In some places, I’ve actually drawn hearts and stars in the margins. Originally published in 1938, this book is as relevant as ever, perhaps even more so. With a gentle, but no nonsense voice, Ueland quietly transforms the often overwhelming task of writing into a simple magic that feels simultaneously accessible and miraculous.

If you have ever felt daunted by writing or doubtful about your right to write, please read this book. I promise you that it will warm your heart, ease your mind, and stoke your creative fires.


And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

This week has an extra dose of crazy, so I didn’t get to spend as much time reading my favorite blogs as I would have liked, BUT here are a few reads that I enjoyed and thought were worth sharing:


Finally, a quote for the week:

pin no one is you

Thanks, as always, for being here. And thanks for being you and sharing your own magic with the world. Happy writing. Happy reading. See you on the other side!ย 
Jamie Lee Wallaceย Hi. I’m Jamie.ย I amย a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom,ย a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook,ย twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

44 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Be Your Own (Writing) Idol Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Already my 2nd time here and I have to say that your lovely posts make me wanna go forward and not backing down with writing. Now I’ll go and check out that post about finding our own magic .Thank you for sharing all these amazing posts ! ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Thanks so much, Cristina. I hope you enjoy the links, and hooray for not backing down from writing!

    • Hello, Craig. (Nope. I’m not psychic, I just popped over to your blog and read your “About” page.) ๐Ÿ™‚

      Love your reminder to think about creative reimagining and rebirth. Keeping things interesting, fresh, and pushing boundaries is important no matter where you are in your journey.

      Love “Doubt,” and have to ask about the background image on your blog. I’m intrigued.

      • Doubt and I are waiting to hear how the Amazon meat grinder treats my story. I change my background about once per month. This month it’s medical leeches. Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to come back.

      • “Amazon meat grinder” … ouch.
        And medical leeches. I never would have guessed. TKS for solving that little mystery! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Hi Jamie! I have read many of your blogs here and with each one I am instilled with a hunger to improve my writing. The fluidity of your words and what you write gives me a sense of the honest feelings you pen to paper. Bravo! Eagerly waiting to read your next post!

    • Thanks. It makes me smile to know that what I write helps inspire a “hunger” for writing. That’s awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Happy to have you here, and looking forward to continuing to see you around.

  3. There is acquired expertise and there is talent. When it comes to art or anything creative, I will always go for the latter. I believe that anyone can learn anything if they put their heart and soul in it but there is nothing can top inborn talent. It comes from within, from the soul, from the heart… for me, that’s magic.

    • I agree that there are two types of talent – “given” and “earned.” I also agree that a given talent can seem magical, but it isn’t necessarily better than an earned talent. Someone who has earned their expertise may have just as much (or, even more) passion for their art than someone who didn’t have to work as hard. In fact, someone with a natural talent may be more apt to squander that by taking it for granted and failing to nurture and hone it.

      Interesting debate to consider. Thanks for bringing it up.

      • I think it depends from person to person. And someone with an inborn talent does not necessarily work less harder than the ones with acquired expertise. Same with passion. A person is either passionate or not talent or no talent. You’re about it being an interesting topic to discuss.

  4. Ooh I love that Dave Grohl quote at the end and the wonderful clip of the American Idol singer. Go Joey! I haven’t read any Terry Pratchett either – I guess sci fi is not my genre. He looks interesting though, and I enjoyed the article that Neil Gaiman wrote about him. Discovering our voice, letting our essential selves shine through – that is what all creative people do. Gosh, I think it must really be the essence of creativity! It can be frightening though, which is why not everyone does it. I think it’s just practice – that and a supportive community.

    • Isn’t it a great quote? ๐Ÿ™‚

      I love your recipe for letting our “essential selves shine through” – practice and a supportive community. Brilliant.

      I have become almost obsessed lately with the question of why we pursue these creative endeavors or try to build creative lives. Why do some people feel more compelled to tackle creative projects than others? Why do some people want to let their essential selves shine while others prefer to masquerade behind artifice? I find all of this endlessly fascinating and hope that I don’t start to sound like a broken record. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • I agree, Sara. We so often waste our time on the unimportant things, leaving the Real Questions unasked.

    • It is a great quote and a lovely bit of calligraphy. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Cheers to being unique in all the Universe!

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  6. Thanks again Jamie for another great post! Definitely food for thought. I am loving that final quote too. ๐Ÿ™‚ could you imagine if we were not all unique? What a terrible thought. Onwards and upwards. ๐Ÿ™‚ and onto chapter 5 in my case! I can’t put the damn pen down! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hello, Mark. Nice to see you again, and glad to hear you’ve still got the writing bug!

      I’m pretty sure that many fantasy & scifi writers have written stories about the horror of a world where all people are the same. I can’t think of any titles off the top of my head at the moment, but I know they are out there.

      What I’ve always loved about that quote is the subtext that you can’t screw up being you. There’s no way you can “do you” wrong, if you know what I mean. It actually shouldn’t require any effort at all to be you. The effort comes in learning how to articulate and share the things that make you uniquely you.

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope the side trip didn’t distract from your writing for too long!

  7. Another great weekend edition! Once again, I’m reading blogs and eating my feelings (chocolate-covered pecans & Diet Coke, of course, in GA). Your American Idol has given me a great boost–I needed happy. THANKS.
    Now, for a few more pecans while I 1) Read your other post on “15 Tips…” and 2) go listen to the Iggy Pop version of “Fancy”!

    • Hello, Suzanne.
      Well, at least the pecans are good for you, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      So glad you enjoyed the American Idol bit. It really is a fun show to watch & I simply adore Joey and her version of that song. Can’t wait to see what she does this week. One of the judges (Harry, I think) called her a “kiwi” in reference to the way her uniqueness really stands out (like the way a kiwi stands out in a fruit salad). I love that. It’s quirky, just like she is.

      Hope you like the 15 tips post.
      Enjoy & be well!

    • Hi, Diane!
      Glad to know there’s another American Idol watcher in our midst. ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Go, Joey!

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