Who in the world is Casey Abrams, you might be wondering. If you watch American Idol, you know he is one of the contestants, arguably, the most talented musician/singer of the bunch.
And last week he was booted out by the American Idol viewers. The judges decided to use their one and only save on this talented guy. He still has hope if this experience taught him the lessons he needs to be successful, lessons writers also need to learn.
His failure proves that great talent does not necessarily equate success, and these are the reasons why:
- Casey’s physical appearance is said to “resemble a Fraggle” and “something a cat barfed up.” Harsh, I agree. Yet, like it or not, we are judged by our appearances. Casey needs to be better groomed; he needs to look like a professional. This also applies to writers, who mainly work “behind the scenes.” In our case, we need to look like professionals in all aspects of our professional lives. Our work should be well formatted. Our blogs should be attractive. Our dress should be neat and clean when we meet with editors and agents. It doesn’t mean we have to look strait-laced. It simply means we need to look like we care. Unkempt appearances might convey we are just as careless in our work ethic. Why take that chance? With a little effort, we can spiffy up.
- Casey does not have a target audience. Scotty has the country vote, James has the hard rockers, and Pia’s elegant beauty appeals to the guys—just to mention three of the other contestants. Who’s Casey’s target? A friend on Facebook used this as a status: Commitment to everything = Commitment to nothing. Someone responded: Or...in trying to make everyone happy, you make no one happy. Who is Casey trying to please? He needs to look within and figure out who he really is and then find his audience, find out what type of audience he wants to commit to. By trying to appeal to everyone, he is appealing to no one. And we as writers must also know who we’re performing for. And, that’s not to say to write for a specific audience. Writers should write the book within them. But, in the end, we must identify who that work is for. We may write brilliantly, but, if we have no audience, who will want to publish us?
- Casey is perceived by some as arrogant. He chose to perform a Nirvana song one week and some condemned him for it. Bravery is needed to take on challenging projects. However, some saw him as parodying the song. Talented people make bigger targets. This reminds me of when Jesus said to sit in the lowly seat. In other words, don’t get too big for your britches. We can know our true value without being arrogant. We need to carefully choose our words and actions, especially as Christian writers, to convey the correct attitude of respect.
- “Branding” is another area Casey needs to address. One of the judges told him he could do anything. Unfortunately, that’s not what audiences want. They want to “brand” you, label you, file you away in the recesses of their minds. If we do too many things, as Casey does--playing different instruments, singing songs in a variety of ways, we confuse people. Sometimes branding is a difficult process for writers. Fortunately, resources exist to help us determine our brand. With a little time and effort, we can develop an easily recognized persona.
- The judges also had a hand in Casey’s failure. The week before, this is what Casey was told: by Steven Tyler--“I think you’re the perfect entertainer.”; by Jennifer Lopez --“You might be like ‘The Guy’ right now. You can really, really carve out a niche for yourself and be amazing.”; by Randy Jackson--“You are definitely a true original.” All great comments, right? Yet they did nothing to steer Casey in the right direction. It’s good to have “judges,” critiquers, but let’s find those who can help us grow, who are willing and brave enough to point out our mistakes. “Yes” men are never the answer. We need critique partners who will help our writing soar, even when the process may be painful.
- And the last mistake Casey made was in playing up his weirdness. People like the unusual, but they like it within the confines of normalcy. Have you noticed most popular movies have elements that are easily identifiable? One example is Indiana Jones. As many know, George Lucas based the format on serials, something many of us remember well. The idea of the whip came from Zorro. (according to: The Raider.Net) Making a movie like a serial, brought us something new, something we had never seen in movies before. Yet Lucas started with the familiar. Writers, too, must have a foot in the normal as they branch out into the quirky. Otherwise, the jolt may overwhelm.
Casey Abrams serves as an example of things writers need to keep in mind. Writers need 1. to look professional, 2. have a target audience, 3. learn humility, 4. know our brand, 5. seek out knowledgeable critiquers, and 6. keep one foot in reality as we explore our quirkiness. Casey has the talent. We may have the talent. Yet all the talent in the world will not garner us the success we seek until we learn these six lessons.