by Marilyn Brant
There were only three tiny problems with my plan to achieve the kind of global Top 40 domination that one-name megastars like "Madonna" and "Prince" had:
1. I could carry a tune, but I was a long way from possessing anything that approached a 'rare and natural' vocal talent.
2. I had acute stagefright and actually hated performing musically in front of anyone.
3. I was too anxious and too unwilling to take the steps needed to improve #1 or manage #2.
You know, I just really liked the fantasy...
So, I did not study much music in college, despite my deep love of the subject, until it turned up as a requirement for my major. All future educators had to take this beginners' guitar class. (I think some "Sound of Music"-loving administrator in the department was secretly convinced that all elementary teachers should be able to mimic Fraulein Maria and sing "Do Re Mi" in key while strumming.) Up until then, I'd played a couple of years of viola -- horribly, by the way -- and a few years of piano -- more successfully, but that's not saying a lot. Guitar was a brand new instrument for me, and the first time I tried to tune it, I broke two strings.
However, my classmates and my instructors did not know about my childhood daydreams of rock stardom or the lingering sadness that washes routinely over such a dreamer whenever she realizes she's given up on a passion without ever really trying. So, I decided I'd do my absolute best in this class. Give it my full effort. Pretend I wasn't scared to the point of nausea at the mere thought of singing/playing in front of everybody. Besides, I had no choice. I wouldn't graduate without those 3 effing credits.
My final performance piece -- in front of the professor, the assistant, and a bunch of classmates -- rocked. Well, rocked in a country music sort of way (it was a John Denver song, LOL), but I not only got my required class credits, I managed to work up just enough courage to audition for our university's musical not long afterward. And I even got a part. A small chorus role in our college's summer production of "Li'l Abner." The rare and natural vocal talent I heard from some of my castmates during the show convinced me that I'd truly be out of my depth if I tried to compete with any of them professionally, but the gift I received was in getting a taste of the reality of singing onstage, not just the fantasy of it.
I thought about that whole experience a lot during my years as an aspiring writer. Sometimes being in a circumstance where we just don't have a choice in doing something or are limited in our options can be an odd blessing, particularly when it comes to figuring out who we are, what we really want, and what we're genuinely capable of doing. The reward is the confidence and courage that come from meeting an unforeseen challenge...and the knowledge that in some new, similarly unexpected circumstance, we could probably do it again.
Marilyn Brant is a national bestselling and award-winning author of contemporary women's fiction and romantic comedy. Her novel A Summer in Europe (Kensington 2011) was a Rhapsody Book Club top 20 bestselling title in "Fiction & Lit," and the Polish-language version was just released last month. Her next story, a coming-of-age romantic mystery called The Road to You, will be out in early October. It features the road-trip music of the 1970s, so there was much (private) jamming to Led Zeppelin, Boston and Bad Company while writing it. Also some Bee Gees, but don't tell anyone. ;)