Four Chair Turn

I confess that I’m excited a new season of The Voice starts tomorrow.  I admit that while I generally avoid reality TV, I like The Voice, in which celebrity judges choose from a group of talented singers to form teams and compete over several weeks to select the best voice of the bunch.  In the opening rounds, the judges are seated facing away from the stage. They can only hear the voices of the contestants. If they like what they hear, they can push a button and turn their chair around. I enjoy the show because, unlike American Idol, all of the contestants have talent. The judges don’t have to listen to all of the terrible singers in hopes that they’ll stumble across somebody who can sing.

While there is no guarantee that the judges will turn their chair, it is guaranteed that the singers will get feedback on their performance. The celebrity judges, all talented singers in their own right, offer praise and criticism to each performer. The feedback is specific and direct. It can be hard to watch a hopeful young singer being told they have a lot of room for improvement. Their dream of stardom is put on hold as they learn they’ve got work to do before they’re ready for prime time.

As a writer, I have an idea of what that experience is like. As I described in a previous post, whenever I finish a writing project, I share the draft with a friend who is a talented writer. We made a deal: he would give me feedback, but if he gave it, he would give it all. No holds barred. If he didn’t like what I wrote, he would say so.  He appreciates my talent enough to tell me exactly where I’m not living up to it.

I just received his feedback on my latest project. He marked up all 140 pages of my manuscript with comments and criticism. It’s daunting. I feel like I’ve just performed an album’s worth of songs on The Voice and now Adam, Christina, Blake, and Cee Lo are picking me apart. I was a bit “pitchy” in the first chorus and a little flat in the second verse. Page after page, the feedback is thorough and thoughtful.

Like those singers, I need to just stand there and listen. I can’t argue or defend. I need to take it all. It hurts, but if I open myself up to all of it, I can decide what to accept and what to reject. I don’t have to follow every bit of advice and criticism. I have to remain myself, with my own voice. But I can have a stronger voice.

Thanks for turning your chair, Kurt.

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3 thoughts on “Four Chair Turn

  1. BTW, it’s worth mentioning (for anyone considering such a mutual beta-reader/editing relationship) that I derive benefit from each book I edit for Todd. Not only do I learn from the things he does well, but I also learn from (what I perceive as) his errors. In editing someone else’s work, I hone my own editing skills. I see things I may not recognize in my own work, and I get practice at finding those hard-to-winkle-out flaws like “weak” wording and large-scale, low-energy structural missteps. It’s an investment of time, to be sure, but it does have benefits.

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