It's true. I watch Glee
. I know it's a show that is sometimes maudlin and cliché. I don't mind this. On Tuesdays, when I get home after teaching/workshopping/worrying about how well I'm doing at life, I like sitting in front of my TV's shiny gleam and losing myself in the petty, dramatic lives of teenagers in a glee club. And while I've always enjoyed musical theatre (its haphazard mix of the saccharine and the satirical), Glee
reminds me to be less afraid of other people's opinions and to become the artist I'd like to be.
Every writer has two things: insecurity and confidence. These are slightly different for every writer, but they fall into several basic categories. Some insecurities might be: having a lack of discipline, questioning your talent, questioning your desire to write, comparing yourself to others, wanting to be the best at every possible moment, etc. Some confidences: knowing you are witty, knowing you are doing what you love, knowing you are at least better than the person sitting next to you at that poetry reading who used that terribly predictable narrative sequence in a story you read in a highly acclaimed journal, etc.
It's easy to underestimate how important it is for a writer to have a healthy ego. I had forgotten about the idea (or hadn't thought about it) until a couple of weeks ago when I was watching one of the characters on Glee
become more confident at singing after her boyfriend helps her comes to her senses. For two seasons, Mercedes has popped in and out of the Glee
spotlight, talking herself up to her peers but never really shining on stage
"Why don't you know that you're the one to be?" her boyfriend says to her, as he holds a lunch tray spilling with delicious-looking carbs. "You're always saying you're Beyoncé. But inside you feel like Effie White."
Mercedes' ego needed some help getting healthier. Her confidence was false--she was going through the motions of being a performer, but needed to face her insecurities in order to sing with the focus of an artist. In my experience as a writer among writers, no one wants to admit to feeling like Mercedes, but most of us sometimes do. We get distracted. In a friendly, competitive atmosphere, it's easy to wonder what you're worth when everyone is as good, or better, than you are.
That was when I put it all together. Instead of actually writing, I sat on my couch and considered how each character on Glee
is a wonderful example for most writers I know.
I'll truncate my long, detailed analysis of each character and just give you three examples.
Rachel (The Star)
Best Song: Don't Rain on My Parade
The Star doesn't need anyone to tell them they're a star. They believe it, and they talk about it openly. Most of us have a little Rachel in us. Even if we're not discussing our talent openly, we have to know we have it in order to write. Rachel knows she's talented, and sometimes this helps her perform well. Her confidence makes her likable on stage. Off stage, she mostly irritates her schoolmates, which makes her feel alone. When she overcomes her insecurities about being the girl no one really likes, she sings affecting ballads about longing and solitude.
Finn (The One In Denial)
Best Song: Don't Stop Believing
Finn likes singing, but prefers passing as cool in the war-like atmosphere of high school. He has talent, but it's not his main concern. If he worked harder, he would probably sound better, but he's too busy trying to figure out which girl he likes the most to think about that. Still, his lack of interest in art is endearing. It allows him to sing just for the love of it, which is something many writers forget. If he could learn to balance joy with effort, Glee
fans would be grateful.
Puck (The Cynic)
Best Song: Fat Bottomed Girls
Puck acts like singing means nothing to him but still he's at practice every week, rocking his mohawked head around. He doesn't have to think about whether or not he's good. He's also conveniently ready when it's time for a performance. Though Puck makes cynical comments about Glee
club, but we all know it's a front. Glee
is uncool, predictable and mediocre at best, but his love for it is hidden beneath his leather jacket. By underselling his craft, he tells everyone else that singing, or writing, shouldn't be taken too seriously. It will ruin its rawness, its ability to surprise.
Later, if you'd like, feel free to ask me which character I think you are, and I will make my best assumptions about your personality. In any case, here is your lesson for now. Don't worry so much anymore about how much you aren't getting done this week. Puck is going to invite you out for a beer. Don't worry so much about whether you really like writing. Finn is giving you his best teenage-boy-confused-face. And finally, don't be overconfident. We know you're good, but Rachel is so much better.