I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

Long before I decided to call myself a writer, I was a choir geek. Still am, though the focus of my energy has shifted. Other than my weekend church cantor gig and the occasional guest spot at a wedding or a funeral, I’m all about writing, and while you can take the girl out of the choir, you can’t entirely take the choir out of the girl.

Photograph of female members of drama circle and choir from Canadian Ukrainian Institute “Prosvita”, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1927

Even so, I want to point out a couple cultural differences I see between music and writing. Now, I’m going to make a generalization here, keeping in mind that my husband and my closest friends are all musicians. I don’t mean to insult anyone, but of the two groups, I find writers to be way more inclusive.

There. I said it.

In music, you audition. For the band or the choir or the solo. In writing, you submit. To agents, or editors, or whoever.  In music, if you don’t get the gig you want, you can always do your own thing and put your creation up on YouTube. In writing, if you don’t get the gig you want, you can now self-publish and put your stuff up on Amazon. In both worlds, networking is as important as learning your craft.

Despite these similarities, writers seem to have adopted an attitude of  “we’re all in this together” that is different from what I experienced as a musician. In the last month, I made a run at a couple of pitch contests – Pitch Madness and GUTGAA (Gearing Up To Get An Agent) –  and while neither has (so far) resulted in a contract, I still consider them both to be great experiences. You know why? I saw old friends and made new ones, right here on the internet. There was a sense of camaraderie, of supporting each other, even though we were competing for the same thing.

And my memories of similar audition situations in the world of music? Shuttered faces, nerves, condolences, and did I mention nerves? People getting asked to participate in things on the down low, while the rest are left wondering “why not me?” I’m probably just splatting my own baggage across the internet, but when you’ve got twenty women trying for ONE solo spot, there are going to be hurt feelings, and possibly some catty whispering whenever the Diva leaves the room.

I’m sure writers would never behave like that.

Well, actually, we’re all human, and so probably, if I knew where to look, I’d find bad behavior in the writing world, too. To an extent I’m protected by the distance created by participating on-line instead of in person. (I was going to type “in real life” but the internet is real life, with more space involved.) The voice is such an integral part of who I am that whenever I audition for something and don’t get it, I feel the rejection is about me, personally, physically, and not the sound I can create. When I’m writing, it’s all about the editing, so if someone doesn’t like a particular combination of words, I simply rearrange them. And if one agent doesn’t like my query, I send it to someone else. And instead of worrying about what’s wrong with me and constantly battling nerves, I have people cheering me on just because I showed up. Instead of everyone aiming for ONE spot in a choir or band or show, there’s a sense that EVERYONE can have a place or a contract or an Amazon author’s page.

I truly hope we all reach the goals we’re aiming for.

To an extent the title of this post is a lie, because there are clearly things I want that I haven’t got. Yet. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade my experiences – both as a musician and a writer – and the community of writers that I’ve found, for anything. You guys rock. Thanks for making this ride so much fun!



…and since I stole the title from a Sinead O’Connor album, I’m finishing off with her video for the song Mandinka. It’s not technically from that album, but it’s my favorite Sinead song (and haven’t we all heard Nothing Compares To U once or twice already?).







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10 Responses to I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

  1. I will say there are places on the internet I’ve found with writing communities like you’ve described. But the more professional the community, the less of it I see. So I don’t know if it’s just the fact that that ‘pro’ level is more open, so more people believe they can get there that it happens or if its something else. I was never into music that way, though, so know nothing of the community.

    • Liv says:

      I’m sure I’m generalizing – I meant it when I said my closest friends were musicians, so clearly there are supportive people in that community – but I’ve found it to be more of a survivor’s mentality. Maybe in part it’s because I haven’t yet experienced the writing corollary to the crazy choir director making arbitrary decisions. And I’ve never really been a “professional” musician, so maybe if I’d experienced that level, I’d feel differently.
      Thanks for checking in, Pat. Good points in your comments…

  2. Hi Liv, I agree. Although I don’t really have another group to compare with, I’ve found almost everyone that I’ve met during my writing journey -online and in person- to be helpful and supportive.
    Although I have heard some Goodreads horror stories, but I haven’t seen any of them personally and hope I never do.
    Nice post 😉

    • Liv says:

      Thanks Deb! I do hope to steer clear of the negative spots, although I guess you don’t always know where they are until you find yourself in the middle of one.

  3. Hi Liv, I’ve found the writing community to be friendly and supportive. I’ve had run ins with a handful of critiquers with less than honorable agendas, but for the most part the community has been positive and inclusive for me.

    • Liv says:

      I have such a love-hate relationship with the whole critique culture…but that’s a different blog post! Thanks for checking in, Elizabeth.

  4. Julie Farrar says:

    Hi Liv. I spent years in the music world and now I’m venturing into the writing world. I’ve never thought of it like this, but I think you’re right. In music, there are a lot of genres that welcome anyone sitting in (e.g., bluegrass) but you’re right. If you’re a drummer or bass player or another soprano it’s “Sorry, full up.” Anyone can play in the writer’s band, though.

    • Liv says:

      Thanks for the validation, Julie! I hit ‘publish’ and thought, oh, I hope I’m not the only one…and you’re right, anyone can play in the writer’s band. 😉

  5. Tami Clayton says:

    Interesting observations about the two worlds and the different levels of support you’ve experienced. I, too, have found the online and in person writing community I’ve chosen to be a part of has been so wonderfully supportive. As we writers know, writing can be a lonely, solitary experience. I don’t think I’d be nearly as far along in my development as a writer if it weren’t for people like you and our online cohort. So, thank you! And I echo your sentiments – there’s a place for ALL of us to succeed as writers and I hope we all do, too!

    • Liv says:

      I’ve been thinking today, Tami, and I wonder if it has to do with the nature of performance vs publishing. For most of human history, only the people in the room could appreciate a musical performance, though the written word has always had a broader circulation. That put performers in more of an exclusive club. But then not everybody knew how to write, so that was pretty exclusive, too. Hmm…at any rate, thanks for your comment, and I can’t wait for the chance to take a look at your current WIP!

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