Being a Musician vs. Being a Writer

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In my freshman year of college a few things happened where I felt I had to decide between being a musician and being a writer.

 

I had gotten to the point in the repertoire as a violinist where I’d either have to become a professional or keep it as a hobby. To take the professional route would require me to spend a dozen or more hours a day in practice and let go of most other time commitments in my life. I had concertized; I had been in orchestras, even toured a bit — but I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted above all else.

 

Alongside my musical studies in those years, I also studied theater, acting and playwriting. It just so happened that in this same period of my freshman year, I had entered a young playwrights festival contest and got word that I was one of the contest winners. The prize was to have my play produced professionally.

 

The process of seeing my play come to life for the first time — working with a director and dramaturg, doing revisions, watching actors audition to play my characters, seeing them bring the roles to life — all of it transformed me. My words, my thoughts, my voice were not only coming out but being affirmed by professional artists and by audiences.

 

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As an 18-year old, this took me in a direction I didn’t quite expect. Music was always my main thing; theater was second. But winning that contest and seeing my play performed in front of me that year clarified my decision.

 

I decided to be a writer.

 

Why? For the “glory”? No. There were gloriously satisfying moments as a musician too — performing solo on stage to enthusiastic applause after hours of learning a piece, winning regional or national competitions, touring the country. It required my creativity, my being, poured into the work, just like with writing. I knew that either field would require a lot of un-glorious work, rejection, and persistence, like in any arts field.

 

What was different?

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What Audiobooks Taught Me About Writing (Part 1)

For years I was an audiobook abridger for several major publishing houses. Titles I worked on won Audie Awards (the Oscars of the audiobook industry), and many others were nominated. It was a great gig that taught me a lot as a writer.

 

Before the popularity of digital audiobook downloads, podcasts and the like, audiobooks were primarily released on CD and, even longer ago, cassette tape. A whole cottage industry, known as abridging, thrived during that time because most books (fiction or nonfiction) were abridged (shortened) before recorded as audiobooks.

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Why? Because listening to a book is an entirely different experience than reading a book: the product is different; the audience is perhaps listening while doing something else, or in smaller snippets of time (perhaps driving or exercising with headphones, short distances). And a few years back, people didn’t want to have to lug 12 cassettes or 6 CD’s around if they bought an audiobook of Roots or Gone with the Wind.

 

So I would be hired to cut anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the book. Usually 30-40%. I’ve abridged many great titles: award-winning novels and novelists, bestselling nonfiction titles from worldwide CEO’s and championship-winning coaches, sex manuals, you name it.

 

Abridging was definitely a craft that helped me as a writer. How?

 

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