Friday, January 15, 2021

My American Idol Ah-ha Moment as a Writer

by Crystal Bowman

In the early seasons of American Idol, I was a faithful fan. From the first auditions to the grand finale, I watched every episode to see who would make the top ten and eventually win the singing competition. 

In one episode, when a young man was about to audition, Simon Cowell ask him if he thought he could be the next American Idol. The young man confidently answered, “Well, I love to sing in the shower, and I think I have a good voice.” 

Simon’s response to the young man’s answer was an honest reality check. He said, “The contestants who have a slim chance of advancing in the competition have been singing since they were children. They take voice lessons and have coaches. They sing in church choirs and local bands. They sing the National Anthem at baseball games and perform in high school musicals. They come with years of training and experience.” 

The young man’s audition didn’t earn him the golden ticket to Hollywood, and he walked away disappointed. 

My Ah-Ha Moment

The parallels between a singing competition and writing for publication were obvious. Though I admired the young man’s confidence, his ambitions were unrealistic, like many writers who think they can get something published that they wrote on their lunch hour. I’ve met several writers who tell me about the bedtime stories they’ve made up for their kids. They believe since their children love the stories, publishers will love them too. One time, a woman with zero experience sent me a story she wrote and asked me to give it to my publisher. Another time a friend of a friend asked me for the name of my editor so she could discuss some ideas with her. Um, sorry. It doesn’t work like that. 

The writers who have a slim chance of getting their work accepted for publication attend writers’ conferences. They read books on the craft of writing. They join critique groups and hire writing coaches. They write for local newsletters, magazines, or church publications. They work hard to become the best writer they can be before they submit their work. They gain experience in writing even if it’s unpaid. 

Has God Called You to Write?

If you believe God has called you to write, then write. But like any other calling, we need to prepare, learn, and grow to fulfill that calling. Missionaries don’t go out on a field assignment until they have been fully trained. Most careers require years of education, training, internships, and degrees. Writing is no different. 

The Hard Work Continues

Just like a professional singer needs to continue voice training, those who achieve a presence in the world of publishing continue to work hard. Bestselling authors still need to write proposals and go through the tedious process of submitting their work. They attend writers’ conferences and have their work critiqued. They face negative reviews and receive “no thank yous” from publishers. But they don’t quit.

As a published author, I love studying the publishing industry and growing as a writer. I love meeting with other authors and learning from them. I enjoy every step of the process even if I receive a “no thank you” now and then. It’s hard work, but that’s what makes it good. 

In Conclusion

My ah-ha moment opened my eyes to the reality of how writing and publishing parallels a singing competition. I will continue to train and work hard as long as I am able. And even though I like to sing in the shower, I will not audition for American Idol.


Crystal Bowman is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 100 books for children and four nonfiction books for women. She also writes lyrics for children’s piano music and is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. She loves going to schools to teach kids about poetry. She also speaks at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and teaches workshops at writers’ conferences. When she is not writing or speaking, she enjoys going for walks, working out at the gym, and eating ice cream. She and her husband live in Michigan and have seven huggable grandkids. 


  1. Crystal, you are so right. I never realized how much I didn't know until I attended the first writers conference three years ago. I've been studying the craft of writing ever since. Thanks for your post.

    1. Thank you, Roberta. There is so much to know. We can never stop learning!

  2. Great post, crystal. Thank you for the reality check.

    1. You are welcome, Ingmar. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Love this post, Crystal. It might be hard to hear, but it is the truth. I did exactly what you prescribed, with the addition of earning a seminary degree. From the first time I pitched a manuscript to my first book contract was six years. This is no overnight success kind of career. It's more like slow and steady wins the race. There's so much to learn, so much networking that needs to happen. Like my sister-in-law told my son, as he headed into a PhD program, that the difference between the ones who make it and the ones that don't is perseverance.

    1. You are exactly right! Thanks for commenting, Julie.

  4. Thanks for this great perspective Crystal, and I am especially inspired by how you embrace the reality of the writing life. :)

  5. It's hard work, but that is why I love it! Thank you for your comments.

  6. It seems like writing is the only thing people expect to be experts at right out of the gate.

    I used to love American Idol, too. I lo ve your observation. Simon always looked for the exceptional ones. Ones that could have a long, versatile career. Something I noticed, is there's a lot of good singers. Ones you'd hear on the street or in church and think they were nice, but not so good they could fill a stadium and blow them all away. I assume the same about writing. My question in writing is though, is it a matter of dedicated training OR are some people naturally more talented?

  7. Great question! The answer is both. Some may have more natural talent, but they still have to work hard. Others might have the desire and may have less talent, but with hard work and training, they can be successful.