Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Simon or Paula - Judging is hard.

I haven't really kept up with American Idol as much this season, but I did tune in to watch a lot of the early auditions. There is something funny and tragic about watching these people get up there and sing like that on national TV. After the William Hung thing, I'm sure some are hoping for his unlikely fame, but I believe that a lot of these people truly believe they have an amazing voice. I don't hate Simon for his blunt remarks because most of the time (there are exceptions) he's just telling the truth. Lying to people about non-existent talent doesn't do anyone any good. But I think watching on TV, we don't get a sense of what it's like to look these people in the face and tell them they can't sing and they should really stop trying. These judges are obviously used to it after several seasons, but it's like executing someone's dream, right there on television.

I am judging a contest right now and have read a boxful of self-published books over the last several weeks. A few of them were delightfully good. A lot of them were, well, not so good. With many I struggled to find something nice to say about it and since I get the luxury of typing my critiques, I thankfully don't have to look anyone in the face to tell them what I really thought. In the reaction my husband gets to listen to, right after I finish a book, I'm more like Simon - I say things like "What were they thinking?" "Who told them this was a good story?" and "I don't know if I can suffer through one more page". That's why the good ones, when I found them, were so exciting. Jeff would come in and I'd say "It's good. It's good!" with complete and utter glee. But as I write my critiques, I am painfully aware that some of these authors have poured many years and many dollars into producing the book I am now reading. It's become their life's passion and now they've seen it realized and sent in their book to be judged. Many of them are sitting at home hoping beyond hope for extraordinary success in this contest. So when I actually write my comments, I'm much more like Paula. She often tries to be encouraging even as she's telling them what's not working.

I'll talk later about some of the biggest mistakes I found in the box of books - mostly because it was the same mistakes being made over and over. And just a hint for you writers out there - yes, there are very famous people who got rejection letters - we've all read the lists, but if you're getting tons of rejection letters for a project you're sending out - there might, just might, be something wrong with your project.

That's what I think is so amazing about all those auditions - it's not just the people who are singing terribly - it's the fact that people in their life apparently told them they were really good. We've all been given talents. Why waste your energy with something you're not good at? Put it towards the things you are good at instead.

Oh well, back to the last two books in my box. Here's to finishing!