Recently, I was lucky enough to see the amazing SistaStrings open for Brandy Clark at Washington Hall in Seattle. It's a great small venue, which I love because you get to be so close to the artists and really FEEL their music.
It was a magical night, but I almost felt like I needed to take notes because there was so much amazing creative inspiration being handed out throughout the concert.
Three Things I Learned...
First, SistaStrings is, like the name implies, a sister duo who play cello and violin. They are classically trained musicians who are heavily influenced by gospel, but can also rock it across the Americana - Folk - Rock spectrum, with a little R&B and jazz thrown in just because they can.
They are the definition of the ultimate genre mashup. And listening to their opener--a gospel-heavy Bridge Over Troubled Water--crystallized for me just exactly why novels that play with this same mash-up of genre are so popular: there is something for everyone.
That's not to say that you can throw everything but the kitchen sink into your novel and appeal to a broad audience. Rather, that if you can find a way to bring together multiple genres in a cohesive way that is unique to you and your story, you're likely to have a winner.
That leads to the second bit of wisdom dropped by headliner Brandy Clark. She told a great story about struggling to find her way into a song she wanted to write about her grandma, an important figure from her life. An older songwriter gave her one piece of advice: "Be specific to find the universal."
I almost jumped out of my chair when she said that, because I say this to writers all the time. The specifics she found? Both unique to the memory of her grandmother AND evocative of a generation of women from middle America:
I don't know about you, but I can see that house in 1984, can see Grandma with her Folgers can. That's exactly the way we should aspire to draw characters in our fiction.
I'll close with my third and final lesson--with a snippet of the song that made me a Brandy Clark fan in the first place. I heard it this summer, when she sang it with her producer, Brandi Carlile: Dear Insecurity. I suspect it will resonate with you as much as it did with me.
It's hard for me to hum along to this song without my eyes welling up with tears. Because I've felt every single thing she's singing about, and I bet you have too.
I wish I could tell you that I'd found the secret antidote to creative insecurity like what Brandy describes above. But there's no silver bullet solution. There's just the work, and the friends we meet along the way, a lot of self-care (drink some water, take a breath!), and sometimes a little music to remind us of the magic that can happen when we put our best, most authentic selves out there for the world to see. That's why we're doing this work, isn't it?
I hope this little musical interlude helped bring a little creative inspiration to your week.
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