Some friends of mine were excellent musicians and dreamed of performing together. He, with his guitar and singularly clear voice and she, with a voice of incredible range and country charm, wrote their own music. Their music made you feel the love they had for each other.
They finally got their chance to perform asked me to tag along. On the way, I asked what they intended to say after they were introduced. They had been working so hard on their music, it didn’t occur to them to work on their introduction.
She came up with the standard,
“Hi, my name is so-and-so and this is my husband so-and-so and we are very excited to be here this evening. We want to thank you for inviting us and hope you like our music. This is a dream come true.”
I started snoring about the time she was done. I got an elbow in the ribs for it.
“What’s wrong with that?” She said, a bit hurt.
“Nothing. Not if you want to be like everyone else that performs and say exactly what everyone else says. But you are artists with words and music. Don’t wait for your music to engage them; capture them from the start. Invite them into your reality. Of course, this is a dream come true for you but rather than using that phrase, draw them into your dream; make them feel like they are a part of your dream.
Clichés are like a comfortable old pair of sweatpants that we slip on when we’re tired of being creative.
We worked on her speech. When she got up to speak, within a few minutes she had them eating out of the palm…wait a minute, there I go using a cliché!
She quickly drew them in made them a part of the story. Here is the essence of what she said:
“In the upstairs of our house is a room with slanted ceilings and our musical equipment; a place where my husband and I spend most of our evenings. He has an armless chair so he can easily play his guitar. I often set on the floor and write out words. The acoustics in that tiny room are perfect. Whenever things are wrong in our world, they are soon made right in that room as we listen to the oneness of our voices.
We’ve been through a lot of paper and pencils in that room creating our songs. It seems that for every line that ends up in our song, a wastebasket is filled with crumpled attempts to make rhythm and rhyme happen in the air.
Many times, we stopped singing and asked God to bless our words so that when they arrive in your ears, they don’t stop there but sneak into the deepest part of you and give you faith, and hope, and love. And we prayed that someday, someone, somewhere would ask us to sing.
And here we are: you are our someday; you are our someone; you are our somewhere; you are an answer to our prayer. We pray our words and music sneak into the deepest part of your heart and breathe life.”
Now, if you were sitting in the audience, which intro would you prefer?
As a speaker and, as a writer, it is so easy to slip on comfortable and familiar old cliché’s. They are easy; they are quick; they are safe; they are boring. Those who listen to you speak or read the words you write will also find your cliché’s so comfortable and familiar that they will begin to nod off. Unless we’re writing a lullaby for a child, few of us want our audience to doze.
As my writing professor in college used to say, “Don’t tell me how to feel; make me feel!