I was dating this girl and I wanted her to know how cool I was, so I made her listen to my favourite song at the time, The Beat That My Heart Skipped.
She clearly didn’t like it but she was too polite to say so. So instead she said she thought it was cool that the guy’s voice cracked a couple of times as he sang.
Maybe she thought he was a crappy singer, but so what? Bob Dylan is a crappy singer too – seriously, the guy can barely hold a tune – but I think he’s great and he’s one of the greatest musicians ever. How did that happen?
What Bob Dylan knows is how to get across his emotions. It’s not polished stuff, and nor is The Beat That My Heart Skipped. But it’s raw and open and honest and that’s how you communicate in a way that makes people care.
I read a book by St Augustine in which he says that ‘Words are like feelings dragged through a hedge backwards’ (or something like that, it’s ten years since I read it). The idea is that actually communicating what you think and feel is really difficult. It’s a long way from the brain to the mouth or hand.
The very best writers and speakers and singers and artists find a way to cut through the confusion and clutter. They speak straight to your head and your heart.
It’s like they cut themselves open and let you see what’s really inside of them. And that makes you listen because actually you’re the same.
Underneath all the worries and fears and money and booze and status everyone looks the same. My favourite writers are the ones who remove all those crappy upper layers and let themselves flow out onto the page.
And when someone does that the audience is captivated. They remove their layers too so that they can absorb as much goodness as possible. All we want is to feel connected and to know there are others out there like us so that we know we’re not alone.
So let people see that you’re the same as them.
Don’t worry about polishing and perfecting every last note. Cut through the upper layers. Let your voice crack a little.