On BBC One tonight (in the UK) it’s the final of The Voice. I’m sure you must have encountered this multinational television franchise in one of its different guises. And if you haven’t, where have you been hiding? Basically it’s a singing contest with a twist. The auditions are blind, meaning the judges don’t see the auditionees, only listen to their voices to decide whether or not to put them through to the next round.
I watched an interview the other day in which one of the judges, beautiful Danny O’Donoghue, said:
You don’t have to sing every note that was ever invented to get your point across or sing a great song.
It struck me that Danny could so easily be talking about writing.
We writers spend inaudible amounts of time honing our craft, learning the grammatically correct way to construct sentences and a whole host of other rules that produce technically perfect prose. But is it enough?
We have to bare our souls, our hearts, and that doesn’t mean flexing our extensive vocabulary. Sometimes, actually more often than not, simple words are the most powerful when they’re strung together with honesty.
One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read is riddled with repeated words and phrases, excess verbiage, adjectives, and pronouns galore, but it had depth and sincerity that swept me along, leaving me breathless, elated, and terribly sad all at the same time. Never before had my breath hitched when reading a book. Yes, actually hitched. And in that moment I couldn’t give a toss about grammar.
I’m not saying that craft isn’t important. Of course it is. But equally important is voice, talent, heart, soul, or whatever it is you call that elusive quality. Couple the two together and OMG, you’ve got the whole package.
Tonight as I watch The Voice, I’m not voting for the most technically gifted singer. I’m voting for the singer that strips everything else away and moves my soul.