I may be a writer, but I’m also a singer, both as part of choirs and as a soloist. My choral singing “career” (if one can call it that) has been going strong since I was three years old. Currently, I belong to the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra, which performed last weekend on the University of California, Berkeley campus. We sang two requiems, one by Cherubini (lesser known) and one by Mozart (well known).
The choir is large, around 200 singers, and when you add an orchestra to the mix, you become a very small cog in a very large wheel. Regardless, your voice is important and the outcome of the choir’s performance requires your presence. This is invaluable to me on a number of fronts, not the least of which is its effect on my writing.
Choir singing is both similar to and also different from writing. The similarities lie in the importance of your voice, regardless of how many voices are also present and shared with the world. Another similarity is the uniqueness of you and what you contribute. No voice is alike (sound familiar?).
The differences lie in the community aspect of choir singing. Writing can be solitary, although networking and meet-ups and critique groups can make it less so, but, in the end, it is you yourself who must sit down and put words on paper. No one else can do it for you. Singing is the opposite. You may practice at home, but rehearsals and performance are in group. The advantage of that is having the community as a form of “antidote” to the solitary aspects of writing.
The other difference is in the oxygenation of the body. Normally, I’m a sleepyhead by 9 or 10 pm at night; however, when I performed last Friday, I was fully oxygenated from deep breathing and when we ended around 10:30 or 11 pm, I was wide awake. I went out with choir friends to a restaurant and didn’t get home until 12:30 am or to sleep until close to 2pm.
Ever sit and write at your computer until your bum is numb? Trust me, your brain is probably numb, too. My choir experience has changed how I write physically. I get up and move around. I sit at my computer as much as the next person, but when I need to think, I get up and pace around. I also make sure that I go for a walk at least two or three times a day, unless my writing time is only an hour or so that day. I work full-time as a library faculty member, so it’s more likely to be a weekend day when I spend hours writing.
The point of this post is that most of us need other activities to inform our writing. For me, choir singing has proved a wonderful foil for writing–giving me community I don’t have as a writer, but reminding me of the importance of voice and the importance of moving around to keep my lungs oxygenated (which also feeds my brain).
For each of us, that alternate activity may be different. Maybe you golf. Maybe you run. Maybe you quilt. Maybe you volunteer in a shelter. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you have something else to enhance your writing. And don’t forget: your writing enhances your other activities as well. It’s an important exchange that enriches our lives.