I am a total sucker for community theater, especially musical theater, and especially middle or high school productions. What I love
...isn't so much the corny show tunes or the predictable story lines, but the fact that the kids have such energy for taking risks. I was thinking of this over the weekend when I saw back-to-back performances of Oklahoma at my son's middle school.
Adolescence is really tough. There's probably no time in your life when you are more prone to self-doubt and insecurity than adolescence, and there's no time (at least for boys) when your voice performs less than predictably. It's easier to blend in with the crowd than to call attention to yourself; it's easier to not set yourself apart.
But still: some kids are willing to risk what amounts to "it all" for them. They risk the embarrassment of belting it out with less-than-perfect pitch (and hearing the snickers when they fail). They risk the indignity of wearing goofy dresses and hair bows, or dorky straight-legged jeans and cowboy hats. They risk letting others see them as uncool and compromised. They put themselves on the line.
The 14-year-old male lead sang Curly's opening number, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" with a voice that squeaked and faltered and sometimes failed him completely. The "Persian goodbye" kiss between Ali Hakim and Ado Annie was as awkward as any kiss between two 14-year-olds would be (especially one with an auditorium full of parents watching).
But of course, it didn't matter. The point is that it was still a great show .... not as the critics would deem it, perhaps, but because the kids themselves were loving it. It was hard not to catch their passion and optimism, especially as you couldn't watch them without wondering what inner teenage demons they had to quash in order to fearlessly place themselves on that stage that night, wearing a long blue frilly dress, straw hat, and belting out, "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No–."
There's a lesson there for bloggers, too. A month or so ago, the videoblog Rocketboom featured an interview with Dave Winer, who talked (among other things) about the nature of so-called amateurs. Dave, who played a lead role in developing many Web 2.0 tools like feeds and podcasting, said: "Amateur is not below professional. It's just another way of doing [media]. The root of the word amateur is love, and someone who does something for love is an amateur–.
"If you're an amateur you have less conflict of interest and less reason not to tell your truth than if you have to pay the bills and please somebody else." (Thanks for Amy Gahran for the reference.)
In that interview, Winer was talking about traditional journalists versus more grassroots media .... like citizen journalists or bloggers. But you could apply his comments to blogging in a more general sense: when it's done with integrity and with heart, it feels honest and real.
The kids in Oklahoma this weekend maybe not have been perfect or polished, just like some of the best blog writing isn't perfect or polished. But just as for the performers, it's a strength, not a weakness. (Or maybe it's weakness and a strength.)
In blogging, too, we may not always be pitch-perfect. The writing isn't always complete or comprehensive or polished. But if you write with passion and truth and communicate honestly, your audience will be on its feet.
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