Cecilee Linke

I can write you a story, teach you French, sing you a song.

If only it were that easy

When a new season of The Voice begins in the early part of the year, I’m glued to the TV set. Well, sort of. In the sense that I set my DVR to record every episode so that I can watch it an hour into the show (avoiding commercials, hehe!) or the next day, commercial-free. Before The Voice, I watched American Idol, but I gave up on that show after about six seasons. It just wasn’t interesting me anymore. I didn’t even care when they stopped. So The Voice is the only music competition show I regularly watch. I may not be a professional musician but I do love to sing and make music, so I love watching people singing and following their dreams.

I myself tried out for The Voice a few years ago for fun. They were holding auditions in DC so I decided to make a weekend of it. My parents still live up there, so I visited them, then sang for producers, and went back home. None of us in our little group got through, but hey, it was a fun day and makes for an interesting story. I can say, “I’ve tried out for a TV show!”

Not being chosen for the show might’ve made anyone upset. And a few of the others I tried out with came out in tears because they weren’t picked. However, I was not fazed. That audition was the culmination of years and years of hard work. The fact that I even went through with it in the first place was enough for me!

You see, I couldn’t have done that audition even a year before.

It’s hard to believe it now, but there was a time when I would mouth along instead of sing Happy Birthday. Same thing when I attended Christmas Eve services and everyone got up to sing Silent Night or Hark the Herald Angels Sing. In high school, I took voice lessons and sang in the choir and even did the occasional solo piece, but I had such confidence issues that singing in front of others by myself made my mouth go dry and my knees knock. Those fears followed me into college and beyond. Singing became something I did when I was sure no one else was listening. Simply put, I was too afraid to let other people hear me sing because I disliked my own voice. Seriously.

And it took me years to surmount that obstacle. As in, most of my life.

That time in my life is something I’ve moved past. However, I bring up that subject because I wish people could know how much work goes on behind the scenes when it comes to being artistic. I want people to know that it doesn’t just come out of a vacuum. Developing yourself as an artist takes lots of confidence, making tons of mistakes, figuring out what you’re good at, figuring out what your own voice is, etc. And that applies to not just singing, but also writing, painting, anything creative. Most of all, it takes time.

Those confidence issues with singing emerged when I was fourteen years old. Only now, in my early thirties, almost twenty years later, can I say that I’ve found my joy in singing again and that I truly enjoy my own voice. I have no problem doing karaoke now or getting up at a local open mic night.

I began writing stories when I was a child. And do you know how many stories I’ve written to get to the good stuff that I’ve published on Amazon? HUNDREDS. For over twenty years, I’ve written stories, just writing and writing until I get to the stuff that’s worth reading.

Don’t get me started on the number of songs I’ve written. There’s a reason I’m a prolific songwriter. I believe in writing as much as possible before the good stuff emerges.

So it really boggles my mind when contestants come on to The Voice as true amateurs. People who seem to have woken up one morning and decided, “Hey, that musical thing I’m always doing with my throat? I want to do something with that instead of this stupid plumbing job. I’ve never performed before but I just feel like I’m meant to do this.” In other words, people who haven’t worked to surmount the issues that I had. And those people? They get up there and are completely natural, never having to have worked the way I did. And if they have, they don’t show it on TV.

Exhibit A. This season, there was Hannah Huston, who didn’t start out being a favorite for me (that honor went to Moushumi; the quirky voices never go far in the competition *sigh*), but as time has gone on, I’ve really liked her. She’s got something unique in her that I’m curious to see what will grow in to. And she is one of those amateurs I mentioned. In reading about her, she’s only done a few performances at open mic nights, she’s a teacher by day, and she has no prior background in making music.

But there she is on a major network TV show, in the finals, close to being a winner (she’s my pick for this season, but that’s just me). And each time she gets up there to sing, she makes it look so easy.

Unless an artist is transparent about it, readers, viewers, listeners, etc, never know what really goes on with an artist behind the scenes. How many stories so-and-so has started and finished but hasn’t gone back to because the story just isn’t that compelling. How many songs so-and-so has written and tossed away because the melody isn’t working out, etc. If you’re not a creative type, you don’t realize that art, whether it’s singing, playing guitar, writing a poem, drawing a picture, or writing a book, doesn’t just appear. There’s always work behind it. Editing, changing words, finding your own voice instead of imitating your favorite author or singer, erasing and redrawing lines, etc.

While I enjoy being an artistic type, I do realize that it’s a lot of work. Is it rewarding for me? Absolutely! Being at the Tidewater Comicon this weekend, I LOVED engaging with people about my writing. Telling them about my weird love of abandoned places which inspired my Wash Woods book series, the stories I imagined for my characters in The Sims 3 which inspired Elodie and Heloise. Because I want people to know what really goes on. Can anyone do it? Well, sure, but realize that it will take time and patience.

And all those people who get up there on TV and you never see what goes on before the show? Well, they must be really lucky then.

If only it really were that easy.