Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Inspires You?

I'm sure many of you have already seen the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle singing on Britain's Got Talent TV show. If you haven't yet, it's here. According to the Age newspaper yesterday, 14 million people had seen it in a week. It's probably up to 20 million by now! Why is this video of a woman singing in a talent quest so amazing? For me, it's two things. She so obviously loves singing and says she just wants to sing in front of a big audience for once. And when she arrives on stage, so many of the audience immediately judge her on her appearance (as do the judges) and are showing scorn before she even begins to sing. Once she starts, however, everything changes.

In his book, No Plot, No Problem, Chris Baty asks you to list all the things you enjoy in a novel (and the things you don't). For me, something I love in any story is transformation. In the Susan Boyle clip, that is exactly what I see, over and over. Not only are the audience and judges transformed by her performance, but it's almost as if she is not! She is very emotional afterwards, and happy, but she has done what she set out to do - achieved her dream. The rest is just the icing on the cake. So I also see the whole thing about reaching for your dream and making it happen.

Dreams can be powerful things. They can keep us motivated and striving for what seems like the impossible - and maybe that's what a dream should be. Not a deadline, or a manuscript that has to be written for a certain purpose or to pay the bills. Those are things clearly within our reach, as long as we work hard and produce the words. A dream is "the big thing" - the one that makes your heart race when you think about it, the one that keeps you awake at night, planning the next few small steps you'll take towards it. The one that you have to have faith in, believe it might one day be possible, and that belief keeps you going, no matter what.

For me, it's seeing someone like Susan Boyle that encourages me to believe in my own dreams. I read about people who achieve wonderful things, but seeing it like that, in full colour, right before my eyes, is stirring and emotional and inspiring to me. So what inspires you, as a writer? Is it real stories like these? I don't mean so much what inspires you to write (which can be movies, other writers, an exciting idea, etc) but what truly moves you and inspires you to also reach for your dream?


Tracey said...

Real stories do inspire me. I'm inspired most by people who do selfless acts, but I don't think that's the type of inspiration you're talking about. Yes, I think success stories help -- they show us the possibilities. I love hearing of other people's successes. I know plenty of writers who hate it, who feel jealous or that it's an opportunity they've missed, but I don't feel like this at all. Success breeds success. Look at what JK Rowling has done for children's writing.

I actually find the Susan Boyle story rather sad though, because she says she is a professionally trained singer, and there are links from the You Tube clip (which was at 25 million hits on Saturday) to an equally wonderful performance of "Cry me a river" from about ten years ago. The tragedy is that it has taken her so long to make it, that in all likelihood she has been kept back because of the way she appears and perhaps her own lack of self-confidence. Good on this show for bringing her to the fore, even if the audience and judges made the same mistake in initially discounting her for the way she looks. I do love to see that moment of realisation on everyone's faces though!

Kristi Holl said...

I loved the clip too. It made me wonder how many of our truly great writers and singers of the past would have been given an audience today. Most of them were no beauty queens or Romeos--but they only had to sound good on a record or radio, or their book had to be good. No one had to astound people with slinky music videos or be stunning on TV or book tours. I've heard of books being turned down because (off the record) the author's face wouldn't look good on book jackets and posters and TV--despite the excellent quality of the book. Think of the masterpieces of the past we would have missed--including my beloved Jane Austen!

Sherryl said...

Interestingly, the media report I watched this morning was all about "is this the end of celebrity fame based on good looks - will we now idolise ordinary plain people?"
You can guess the answer to that - probably not! But I do hope the incredible fame (now 66 million hits on YouTube) won't ruin her life. That would be really sad.

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