Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Writers are like opera singers

Last weekend I went to a housewarming party here in Madrid. One of the hostesses is a big opera fan and knows many important people in the opera community. I'd never met anyone associated with opera so it was interesting to talk with not just one but two professional opera singers and an aspiring singer.

I got into a long conversation with a woman who was on her third Madrid show and had worked in other cities as well. She isn't famous, but she's earning a living. Sort of a midlist opera singer! We compared our professions and found them to be remarkably similar. Despite having proven her worth time and again she still has to deal with getting turned down for shows, or even having her correspondence ignored. Finances are also precarious.

So don't think you're alone, struggling writers, because the singers, musicians, and painters are all in the same boat. Making it doesn't mean making it big, yet this woman loves her work and doesn't want to do anything else. I guess all the silly professions have to deal with the same troubles, and reap the same rewards.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]


fictionwitch said...

Completely agree with this! I had a couple of young professional sopranos staying with me this summer and it was amazing how the experiences of being a singer to hire matched those of the working novelist.
I think it is healthy for writers to make friends with and be supportive of other creatives, rather than just hanging out with other writers. You can sympathise with their failures and applaud their successes without feeling any of that professional rivalry which can make things difficult between practicioners of the same art. And of course, writers can learn so much about their own craft by studying the other arts, for example how stories are told in opera or painting.

Sean McLachlan said...

I find some of my best inspiration from nonwriting creative people. I also like to write in art galleries and historic/archaelogical sites. When I'm in England I like to write in the National Gallery and British Museum. They're both free and full of inspiring things to study. The guards used to stare at me but I think they're used to me now.

fictionwitch said...

I love writing in museums too. But you have to be careful on the continent as they can be very strict about people walking around with pencils. Nearly got arrested in an art gallery in Belgium for getting out my notebook.
Having said that, in Edinburgh, in the National Gallery there is a leading (but maverick and certainly eccentric) criminal defence advocate who can often be seen working in one of the large galleries, with all his papers/case notes spread round him in plastic bags. So it works for the lawyers too.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.