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Fear of Singing

March 31, 2009

My fiancée won’t sing if anyone can hear her. I won’t dance in front of anyone. Neither of these conditions is unique. Or even uncommon.

This is unfortunate as both singing and dancing are a way of expressing deep emotion. They are amazingly effective at expressing joy, love, anger, frenzy and despair at levels difficult to express through more mundane means. They also happen to be wonderful ways to relieve stress. The benefits of singing and dancing have been understood by religions and cultures for millennia—it’s why their so intertwined with rituals.

But a great number of people suffer these fears. People no longer sing out in joy because they expect others to judge them. I won’t dance in public because I’m afraid that someone will judge me a bad dancer, or laugh at me. And it’s a terrible shame that these forms of expression have been taken away from so many.

Why does this matter? Why did I bring this up on a writing blog?

Because the same thing happens with writing. Writing can be therapeutic in a big way. It’s not only a way to express emotion, it’s a way to test ideas, teach, communicate and create soaring works of art. But a large percentage of the population would never consider picking up the pen because they don’t think they’re any good.

Long ago, someone they looked up to, told them they were bad at it. Maybe it was a teacher who gave a series of subpar grades. Maybe it was a non-supportive parent. Maybe a helpful friend gave an accidentally-harsh critique.

As writers, amateur or professional, we have a unique influence over how others feel about their own writing. Most people don’t write for the purpose of entertaining, or with the thought of being published. Most people, when they pick up the pen, do so merely with the intention to communicate an idea. And they shouldn’t believe, as most of us do, that if we can’t do something at an unusually high level of quality, that we shouldn’t do it at all. We can encourage, or ruin a fledgling author with a well- or misplaced comment.

It’s a beautiful thing when someone sings and doesn’t care that they sound flat. There’s something freeing about watching people dance when they know it feels good, and don’t care whether it looks good. And there’s something refreshing about someone who writes just for the joy of writing, with no burden of the need to spell every word correctly, or to proofread to make sure every comma is in the right place.

Remember, expression should be fun, no matter how serious its message.

I for one, intend to fight to make sure that my tone-deaf daughter sings at the top of her lungs, and my son with a penchant for cliché continues to write his predictable comic books. Because life’s just better that way.

Dale lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his fiancée and four step-children, and spends a good portion of his time trying to locate an absent muse. You can read about him, his family and his struggles at Rough Draft.
  1. March 31, 2009 11:31 am

    I’m from Wales and we all sing back home. But here in France people look askance when I sing in public. And if you want any help on the dancing front, then try ceilidh folk dances. Everyone dances in groups there, and no one cares about mistakes. I recommend it.

  2. March 31, 2009 11:39 am

    I totally LOVE what’s been done to the place!
    When I visit my favorite blogs I open them all at once in different tabs, click each one, and enjoy. When I clicked the WRITE ANYTHING tab I had to check TWICE to make sure I was in the right place! It’s fun, exciting, all new with extra writers… Kudos!

  3. March 31, 2009 12:19 pm

    Thanks Gigi! Dale designed it, he’s the genius behind our new look. 😀

  4. March 31, 2009 5:27 pm

    Awesome post. I totally agree that it’s our duty to encourage people that want to express themselves, and often get annoyed with writers who whine about non-writers saying they want to write a novel one day because “they don’t understand how much work it is and how special I am” when writers should be saying, “Great! Can’t wait to read it!”

  5. Jo! permalink
    April 6, 2009 1:22 am

    thanks, the world needs this.
    it is true, unfortunately for most of us. I have 3 children and try to convince them that singing is a good thing, moving is a good thing, … human theatre is a good thing: it is the only way that what lives inside, in the dark, can come out in the light, and of course the other way round. A gate of inner and outer communications.

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