Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Like a Rock Star

On Saturday, my family and I went to Bumbershoot, a three-day music and arts festival that goes on in Seattle each year. We'd never been, and my kids knew more about it than I did because...well, they're cooler than I am. We bought tickets for Saturday since that was when Bob Dylan was slated to perform.

After finding seats at the main stage, my daughter and I headed off to where
This Providence was playing. I went to their performance knowing and loving one of their songs, but having no idea if I'd like their other stuff. My daughter, on the other hand, already knew the songs from their first CD.

When we got to the stage where they were performing, I was planning on staying for two songs. Since my husband and son were staking out the seats we'd found in the nosebleed section of where Bob Dylan would soon be performing, I thought it would be rude to disappear for too long.

I had no idea we were about to have a super special experience. And you know what? We writers can learn a few things from This Providence.

Stay positive.
Something my daughter and I thought was fabulous--and shocking--was the crowd at This Providence's stage wasn't huge. This in no way reflects the band in a negative light. Bob flippin' Dylan was about to perform on the stage next door (an actual stadium). For writers, that would be like doing a reading next door to a place where J.K. Rowling was about to read from the Harry Potter series. Maybe This Providence loves smaller, more intimate crowds, but maybe they don't. I have no idea. What I do know is they put on a stadium-worthy performance, and they looked like they were having a blast.

Hook your audience.
Remember my two song plan? We stayed a half hour, which was when the show ended since we'd missed the beginning. Then we bought a CD and waited in line to get it autographed.

Were we hooked? Oh, yeah. It's like when you're reading a book that's grabbed you and won't let go.
Just one more, one more chapter...I bet I won't be that tired tomorrow if I read a tiny bit longer...

Don't just meet expectations, exceed them.
I don't know how many of you are familiar with This Providence, but they're great performers. They have an awesome stage presence, whether they're in the middle of a song or interacting with the audience between songs. In other words, they're totally entertaining. And their music? Wow. I often like only one or two songs by a band, at least until I become more familiar with their other material. On Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised when I liked each song they did.

We need our readers to walk away satisfied, and we have to try to make our books even better than expected. I realize this is so much easier said than done.

Be nice.
Before singing the last song, "Letdown" (the only one I knew going in--it was incredible performed live, bloggy friends), the lead singer invited anyone who was interested in meeting them to the f.y.e. tent after the show. A line formed and, despite telling my hubby we wouldn't be long (I love you, Jim!), we were in it. As the band members signed the cover of the CD we'd just purchased, the lead singer
thanked my daughter for buying their record. So sweet, so classy, and I'm so happy to buy their next CD. And the next one.

I'm linking to a July 2009
post of Moonrat's that talks about the importance of being nice. It matters.

Oh! Bob Dylan was cool, and I love that our kids witnessed a legend performing. That said, This Providence gave my daughter and me an unexpected experience I'll treasure. Even though I have no musical talents and will never be a rock star, I hope to write like one.

Click here for This Providence's video for "Letdown," which is anything but.


Kelly said...

I love going to a concert to listen to a certain band, but then discovering a favorite new band while I'm there!
Very cool that your kids got to see Bob Dylan perform too!!!
I love the motto, BE NICE. I almost put it on my license plate (first I tried ABC123 because I was a teacher at the time (it was already taken), but then just put my boring initials instead of Be Nice my second choice.)

Margaret Nevinski said...

Dawn, I really like your analogy between rock music and writing. Your blog is rock star material!

Dawn Simon said...

Kelly, I almost mentioned you in this post since I know you're such a concert girl! ABC123 would be a fun license for a teacher. Hee!

Thank you, Margaret!

Molly Hall said...

Dawn, this sounds like so much fun! I love your analogies. i think it's a great example of doing YOUR thing really well, and having a spirit of gratitude and joy, even when you might not be the superstar/main attraction. What a great way to build a really loving, genuine fan base. I wish them much success! And I have to check out their music now. : )

Tabitha Bird said...

I like the "Don't just meet expectations exceed them." So true.I forgot that sometimes. I get so busy trying to hit the mark I forget I can aim higher :)

Diane said...

Sounds like you guys had a great time and got a new perspective on "performing" with your books. :O)

Anita Saxena said...

I love how you paralleled a positive concert experience with writing. I'll have to check out This Providence.

Anita said...

What fun! I find myself taking writing lessons from so many aspects of life (like rock bands), and I think my blog has really opened me up to that experience. I'm glad you're feeling it too, and am happy for you that you got to spend some quality time with your family...we moms have to do so much nagging, it's nice to just chill.

Travener said...

The Weekly -- possibly the Stranger -- had a funny and interesting piece in which a bunch of 20-year-olds were forced to listen to Dylan for 12 hours and then asked for their opinons on him and his iimportance to their life. It's fun reading. I haven't been to Bumbershoot in eons. Can't stand the crowds. Plus, it always rains when I go.

SWK said...

A "rockin' good" post. Nice analogy and I always appreciate your positivity. This was the perfect post to read to start my week! - Stasia

Angie said...

That's very cool. Love this post! Those are some great lessons to live by.

Tamika: said...

Ooh I would love to write like a rockstar! And you're write the most important thing is not the size of the audience it's the size of the performance:)

Terri Tiffany said...

Hi there! I am so pleased you stopped by my blog with a comment! I see you are from the NW. My daughter moved there 4 years ago and so I've visited often. She is in Bothel. Your blog is really well laid out and nicely done!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Cool analogy! I never heard of them but I checked out their Video. They ARE good!
I love discovering new music almost as much as dicovering new books! :)

Patti said...

Sounds like you had a great experience and more importantly gave your kids a good one. That would have been awesome to see Bob Dylan.

I watched the video, I think I'll add them to my next itunes purchase.

Susan R. Mills said...

Perfect analogy. Sounds like an amazing experience too.

Belle said...

Such a lovely experience! Thanks for the link to the video, too - I think I'll be adding them to my next itunes purchase too.

Anonymous said...

Great story. I love the emphasis on being nice and making yourself available in a genuine way!!

Hema P. said...

Wow, I love it when someone we don't necessarily expect (like rock stars) show good manners and are polite!!

And what lessons you took away from that one performance, Dawn! Shows your positive attitude. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Dawn Simon said...

Molly, I wish them a ton of success!

Tabitha, I'm working at it, too. Again, it's easier said than done. :)

Diane, you're right!

Thanks, Anita S. I bet you'll really like them. I've been listening to their CD repeatedly!

Anita, I feel the same way. Yes, the best part was having such a special time with my daughter--and my hubby and son the rest of the time we were there, on our journey to and from, etc.

Travener, that sounds funny. I was really glad it didn't rain--just a sunshiny experience all around.

Thank you, Stasia! BTW, I received the uber fun swag bag from your contest yesterday. I'll have to remember to tell you that...

Thank you, Angie!

Tamika, it is the size of the performance, isn't it? :)

Thanks, Terri! I've seen your comments in the blogosphere so many times. I'm glad I checked out your blog! Thanks for coming to mine!

Jennifer, aren't they awesome?!

Patti, yes, we had a blast with the kids! Yay that you enjoyed the video, too!

Thanks, Susan. It was!

Belle, they're great, aren't they?!

Paul, I was so impressed with them. Obviously, right? ;)

Thanks, Hema. And it wasn't that I expected them to be less than polite. It's just that when you see a band perform and they blow you away then you get to meet them, you feel like the lucky ones. I was touched and impressed when they were so gracious and genuine. talent + kindness = awesome

Laura Pauling said...

It's amazing what a little kindness will do. Who someone is def. affects if I buy their stuff! Great point.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Dawn--It sounds like you guys had a great time! Thanks for sharing it with us...You were emotionally vested in the concert and that's what we all hope for in our readers...

Have a good weekend!

Katie said...

What a fabulous post! so many nuggets of wisdom! Thank so much!

Cinette said...

Great comparison between a concert and writing. At a performers' workshop my daughter took in Nashville, these were the points they made to the participants. You want to create a 'moment' for the audience, something that stays with them and brings them back. I couldn't help comparing it to writing at the time, either:-)

DLCurran said...

Being genuine and nice - sometimes we underestimate how moving that can be; how sometimes a sincere moment can make a greater impression than not. Thanks for reminding us how important it is.

Dawn Simon said...

Speaking of nice, your comments are so nice. Thanks, you guys. :)

Laura, it feels extra good buying something when you know someone kind will benefit. I agree.

Sharon, we did--and well said.

Thank you, Katie!

Cinette, that's cool. Yes, we will always remember that moment fondly; that makes sense.

Debbie, very true. Thanks.

gabi said...

Very sound advice. I think the point about exceeding expectations is a good one and is especially hard when you have to keep doing it again and again (like with blogging or writing a regular column). I once got great advice about writing: make your 100% better than 100% so that you can have an off day once in a while.



Oh, what a great day you had, and what great lessons you have to offer using it as an example. I especially like this idea of "hooking your audience." It feels very respectful of your audience's time and interest, and the complexity of that person's relationship to the space/event (may be with fam, may have another concert to go to, etc). Great post!

Anonymous said...

I never thought about this comparison before, but it makes sense since music and writing are both forms of art. Have a great week.

Samantha Bennett said...

That song is incredible. As was this post. I love all your points and how you linked them with such a cool experience from your life! :)