If You Want to Write: Wrap Up

We’ve reached the end of the If You Want to Write series. For a small book, there’s a lot to discuss and learn, and hopefully, we’ll become better writers from it. Not better in terms of quality, but better in the sense that we are more true to ourselves.

In the final chapter, Ueland lists 12 things we should keep in mind while writing. I picked my favorite five:

1. Know you are talented, original, and have something important to say.
Many of us struggle with this. We doubt ourselves and our abilities, but if we work hard and stick with it, there’s no limit to what we can do.

2. Work is good.
People tell me I’m crazy because I enjoy working. I’m not a workaholic; I know when to take a break, but I do enjoy working. It always pays off one way or another, and it beats watching TV all the time. Also, we should love what we do, and if not, we need to change something. We spend too much time working to hate it.

3. Don’t be afraid of writing bad stories.
I love this advice. Ueland says in order to know what’s wrong with a story, write two or three more and go back to the first. “Good” writers learn from their mistakes and work to fix them. And it doesn’t matter if people like it – write for you.

4. Don’t be afraid of yourself.
We all have demons, baggage, hang-ups, whatever. We all get in our own heads and may be afraid of what we’ll find if we open up. People may judge us. None of it matters. Be whoever you want to be, and let those emotions pour out. At the very least, you’ll feel better.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Ueland says because we are all unique, we are incomparable. We should not criticize because they do not write like we do. We should not question ourselves because someone is better. We should stay true to ourselves and our art.

If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit digs deep into the emotion it takes to write passionately. Ueland encourages us to write with honesty and love ourselves. With that, here is a poem I dug up. Can you guess what it’s about? :)

My eyes burn, heavy lids
eyelashes itch, dry skin peels.
Muscles ache, hunched
wrinkled hands, cracked.
Jaws clinched, I bite
my lower lip.
The day is done,
what do I do?
Complain about the day’s past.
A line appears across my forehead,
but what’s the point?
Another day gone by,
another eight hours done.
What is the point?

If you haven’t bought the book, check it out, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. May it inspire all artists!

Weird Al and the Cycle of Pop Culture

Off The Top of My Head

With the release of a brand new Weird Al album this week, I got to thinking about my personal history with the Great Yankovic’s music and noticed an alarming trend….

When I was a kid I listened to a lot of Disney albums and dinosaur-centered kids’ records. The first album from a specific musical artist I ever received was literally a WEIRD one. An older kid whose mom was friends with my mom gave me my first Weird Al album. And it was a doozy. Dare to Be Stupid.

As a six year old I did know some popular music. I of course knew Michael Jackson, some Madonna, the Bangles “Walk like an Egyptian,” for some reason “Cruel Summer” by Bannanrama sticks in my memory from this era. But I didn’t know much beyond that. The only song I recognized at all from the Dare to be Stupid was the Madonna cover “Like a Surgeon.” I knew “Like a Virgin” from the radio, however to be honest I listened to the Weird Al album so often I still can’t hear the intro to Madonna’s original without singing the lyrics to Yankovic’s parody.

Of the rest of the songs on the album I only vaguely knew “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” so I knew the tune, but I couldn’t even define “parody” well enough to realize Weird Al was lampooning a popular song. The rest might as well have ALL be Al-originals. I didn’t know Huey Lewis beyond Back to the Future and “Lola” was unknown to me but I sure knew Star Wars well enough for Al’s “Yoda” to resonate.

I was an instant fan, whether I knew the original artists or their songs or not.

A couple years later I received Polka Party and the self-titled album. Off this album I knew NONE of the original popular songs but I still know every word to the Al parody, even though I still don’t know what some of the originals ARE. Off of the self-titled, I only recognized the Joan Jett cover of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” well enough to know “I Love Rocky Road” was indeed a parody of it. Though these albums cover artist from James Brown, and Tom Petty, to Queen, and Mick Jagger I only knew Al.

For a while I forgot Weird Al as a novelty of my youth until I rediscovered him in middle school. I was now more familiar with popular music so when I found old used tapes of Even Worse and In 3D I recognized the songs as older hits. “Bad” and “Fat” were both such big hits they transcended lack of knowledge of Al or Michael Jackson. I also knew the “I Think I’m a Clone Now” track from the cover of “I think We’re Alone Now.” From In 3d Eat it was the huge hit, another I recognized from Michael Jackson, and I recognized a lot of the oldies in “Polkas on 45.” It was nice to know a lot of the music Al was lampooning and it added to the parody as you could see how he changed the song and used the original artist’s music to create a whole new song.

As a teenager I knew the modern popular music of course so when I got Off the Deep End, Alapalooza, and Bad Hair Day, nearly every parodied song I heard I had heard the ORIGINAL first. Often over and over. It wasn’t until this era when I personally realized that, of course, Al parodied the BIGGEST hits of a few years of music. Nirvana, Coolio, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, very well known to me at the time, Al’s tracks were just as great (if not greater) and knowing the newer songs as well as I did made the Al-bums even more enjoyable.

Then something strange happened… Right around Running With Scissors I started to lose touch with popular music again. I knew the songs he was parodying but the original lyrics no longer fought for control in my brain when I heard the Al version. By the time Poodlehat and Straight out of Lynwood arrived I knew OF the songs but can honestly say I never heard “Confessions” or “Ridin” before the Al parodies. Though I did know American Idiot it was the only one I could have named the original title of off of Lynwood.

When Alpocalypse came out I was six years old again. Trying to figure out which of the tracks were parodies and which were Al originals. The additional fallout to this is while walking around whistling “Party in the CIA” to the rest of the world I was jamming to Miley Cyrus…

It’s a strange circle of pop culture life. From not knowing the originals and only know Al’s parodies, to knowing a bit of the originals but more of Al’s, to knowing the originals well AND Al’s, to knowing Al’s parodies better than the originals, and back to ONLY knowing the Weird Al tracks.

It speaks to Al’s longevity and versatility that he has had a successful music career that spans nearly my entire life thus far.

 

I’m eagerly awaiting Al’s latest offering, “Mandatory Fun” though to be honest, even if the track list HAD been leaked, it wouldn’t have mattered…I wouldn’t know the popular originals anyway!

Lindsey Stirling in Nashville: The Follow Up

Lindsey Stirling played Music City on June 28, and I had the pleasure of seeing for the second time. The first show was great, but she has definitely grown and learned from her strengths and experiences.

Seeing the evolution in her performance from year to year is one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. In 2013, she played the small Cannery Ballroom, which fits about 500 people standing. This year, she played the historic Ryman Theater, which seats more than 2,300.

Show highlights:

1. Set list. She recently released her second album, so she has plenty to pick from. At the first show, she played nearly her whole album. This year, she played for 2.5 hours and had a great mix of new, fan favs, and new songs.

2. Higher attendance. Last year, my RevPub partner and I went. This year, I had to buy six tickets! They were more expensive too. It’s a great example of an up-and-coming artist really making a name for herself. It was my oldest brother’s first concert too, and he’s 26 years old. In another year, she will sell out an even larger venue.

3. Lights and screens. I was impressed with the light show. Every song was different and complemented her playing well. My favorite was the little 8-bit Link that ran along the screen during Zelda Medley.

4. Dancers. Lindsey has a great pair of back-up dancers, but last year there was no room for them. The Ryman’s stage allowed them to dance, play, and have a dance-off during her breaks. They tossed her around and picked her up, all while she never missed a note on the violin.

5. The band. She has a live keyboardist and drummer on stage at all times. This improves sound quality beyond the normal noise that dubstep can sometimes project. I could tell the group really cares for one another, and it was very much like a family. You don’t see that closeness often, especially in bands, because of ego and entitlement issues.

6. A personal view. At one point, Lindsey played a photo slideshow of her growing up. Not only can you hear her emotions and experience in her playing, but you could see that at an early age she loved to play and dance. A lot of performers fill in break time with random messages or images, but Lindsey wants you to know her. I’ve never seen an artist open up on stage the way she did.

If you never seen her, you should. I’ll let this video speak for itself :)

Video by pixiegirl2426