Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Gotta Believe!

Rick here.

I've just been watching some clips of a British TV show called "Britain's Got Talent". It's basically like "American Idol": a bunch of regular folks trying to win a contest and go on to fame and fortune.

The results of this contest, which had its final episode of the year on Sunday night, was a bit different. You see, the guy who won it, a cell phone salesman from South Wales, is an aspiring opera singer. The response when he came out on stage the first time to face the judges and audience was exactly what you might have expected: rolling eyes, a few giggles, all of them looking uncomfortable. To be truthful, Paul Potts' looks were against him. He had on a truly awful-fitting, badly-pressed suit; he isn't very good looking and he seemed quite awkward and scared.

Then the music started. Paul's chosen aria was "Nessun Dorma" (Let no one sleep) from Puccini's opera _Turandot_. It's a standard favorite of opera lovers and every decent tenor has to have it in his repertoire. This unlikely man opened his mouth and the world sort of stopped. Paul's singing was honest, very, very good and had something that just made the hairs stand up on the back of my jaded little neck. He was THAT good.

The judges, those of the rolling eyes, now had to admit that they were blown away (one had even shed a few tears). Paul's story is somewhat melodramatic to be sure (accidents, ill health, bullied because he's "different"), but what really came across to me in his performances was the emotion behind the singing -- and the honesty. This is what all great musicians can do.

He came back for the semi-finals and the same thing happened. Sunday night he again sang "Nessun Dorma" again and they let him go a bit farther with the aria than the previous truncated version. Cut to the chase: he won. And he deserved it. I watched clips of the other contestants and he truly deserved to win.

The point of this little entry is that, as writers, we're faced with very uphill battles. Writing the book is the easy part. Trust me when I say that. You've got to find a publisher, maybe an agent, then rework the book to their standards, then you've got to hussle, flog the darn thing, and even then, you might not have much success or sell many books. But through all that, you've gotta believe and you've got to keep believing.

The New York Mets had that as their slogan when the one an impossible-to-comprehend World Series back in the '60s. Paul Potts had to believe, too. And if you think opera is an easy sell on a TV talent show, boy, are you out of it!

To everyone out there, at whatever point you are on the writing treadmill, just make sure you keep on believing.

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