By Donna Cangelosi
I recently had the opportunity to see Springsteen on Broadway, a one-man show and intimate look at the experiences that shaped Bruce's life and fueled his artistic expression. A perfect mix of heart-felt stories, humor, and musical genius. I laughed. I cried. I was so inspired!
Most of the experiences Bruce shared during the performance appear in his beautiful memoir, BORN TO RUN, a story about growing up, hardship, dreams, friendship, rock-n-roll, letting go, and heart, heart, heart. Bruce also shares wonderful tips about the creative process that relate to the craft of writing picture books.
Find What You do Best
"I needed to travel light and be able to blow somebody away with just my voice, my guitar and my song. Voice...guitar...song...three tools. My voice was never going to win any prizes. My guitar accompanied on acoustic was rudimentary, so that left the songs. The songs would have to be fireworks. I decided the world was filled with plenty of good guitar players, many of them my match or better, but how many good songwriters were there? Songwriters with their own voice, their own story to tell, who could draw you into a world they created and sustain your interest in the things that obsessed them. Not many, a handful at best."
The Takeaway: Find your own unique style and create the story only you can write.
Write with Purpose
"These were issues that had previously been relegated to the margins of American life. Dread--the sense that things might not work out, that the moral high ground had been swept out from underneath us, that the dream we had of ourselves had somehow been tainted and the future would forever be uninsured--was in the air. This was the new lay of the land, and if I was going to put my characters out on that highway, I was going to have to put all these things in the car with them."
The Takeaway: Write stories with universal, relevant and relatable themes.
Know your Process
"I started with the guitar riff. Get yourself a great riff and you're on your way. Then I'd chug along chording randomly while I'd mumble, mumble, mumble...then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run...That was all I had..."
It wasn't an easy piece to write. I started my title song that afternoon but I didn't finish it until six months of trial and tribulations, images, the road, the car, the girl...what else is there?"
The Takeaway: It takes a long time to create a masterpiece, even for a rock star!
Get to Know your Characters
"When you get the music and lyrics right, your voice disappears into the voices you've chosen to write about. Basically, with these songs, I find the characters and listen to them. That always leads to a series of questions about their behavior. What would they do? What would they never do? You need to locate the rhythm of their speech and the nature of their expression. By pulling these elements together as well as you can, you shed light on their lives and honor their experiences."
The Takeaway: Imagine what t's like to be your characters and write from their perspective
Write with Meaning
"Most of my writing is emotionally autobiographical. I've learned you've got to pull up the things that mean something to you in order for them to mean anything to your audience. That's where the proof is. That's how they know you're not kidding."
The Takeaway: Write about subjects that have personal meaning to you. The best stories are the ones that come from the heart.
Work at It...Over and Over and Over
"Some of our mixes remained on the board for three, four days, a week, as we fussed, mussed and murdered one another in a vain attempt to capture all worlds. We had mixes with three-digit take numbers. We were violently frustrated and puzzled."
The Takeaway; Collaborate and revise, revise, revise.
Write for the Sake of Creating
"I'm glad I've been handsomely paid for my efforts but I truly would've done it for free. Because I had to. It was the only way I found momentary release and the purpose I was looking for. So for me, there weren't going to be any shortcuts."
The Takeaway: Enjoy the process. Write because you love to write, not for fame or fortune.
Find your Tribe
"If we didn't play together, The E Street Band would probably not know one another. We wouldn't be in a room together. But we do...we do play together and every night at eight we walk out onstage together, and that, my friends, is a place where miracles occur...old and new miracles. And those you are with in the presence of miracles, you never forget."
The Takeaway: Don't go it alone. Join a critique group, go to conferences, and build friendships. Magic will happen!
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.