‘ll be up front: It can be damned difficult.
Idol is one of those games which, by virtue of how it’s set up, can be a haven for nursing all those obsessive neuroses you’ve been secretly harboring. Your neuroses will discover a neverending feast, from the weekly prompt (“OMG Gary I’m going to KILL YOU!”) to the actual writing (“OMG, I don’t know what to write!”) to actual submitting (“OMG everybody’s going to laugh at me because it just SUCKS!”) to the actual voting (“MUST KEEP HITTING REFRESH EVERY 30 SECONDS OR I’LL SELF-DESTRUCT.”) I’ve known some contestants who made themselves crazy over one or all of these, including myself. I’ve witnessed meltdowns. I’ve had meltdowns. For what’s supposed to be a fun game, it’s not a pretty sight.
There’s also the competition factor. The first season I officially played, the idea of Idol-As-Competition percolated here and there, but it was never in the forefront. I got much further along than I had originally imagined. However, that obsessive neuroses deep within my psyche wasn’t satisfied as the next season loomed. I HAD to do better. I HAD to make the Top 40, the Top 30, Top 20, etc., or I was going to…oh, I don’t know, explode into one huge gooey brain-splattering mess that someone would have to clean up. The more I put pressure on myself to achieve any of this, the more I broke. My writing, I felt, wasn’t as good as it could be. I neglected real life during my free time to read and compare my entry of the week with others. My head swirled with regrets that I should have written a piece this way, not that. Why was Contestant X getting so many votes compared to Contestant Y when it’s clear that Y wrote, IMO, a better entry? And, OMG, I’ve got to make my daily GR appearance so people know I’m around!
It’s actually a wonder I didn’t self-destruct. I did succeed in making myself crazy, though, so much so that I questioned whether or not to ever play again. The thought that I might have perhaps made myself crazy enough not to play again shook me. I needed distance and perspective.
Then I thought about the contestants who didn’t self-destruct. Maybe they didn’t have the inborn obsessive thing going on. Or, if they did, they somehow learned to channel it. What was their secret? How did they manage to keep playing and have fun at the same time?
I came up with the following theories:
They saw Idol for what it is — a game.
The “It’s just a game” chant pops up at some point every season. The more obsessive may scoff at it, but if they put their egos aside for a moment, they’ll discover much truth in the statement. This isn’t about life or death. You’re not going to win a million dollars and instant fame if you’re the winner. You’re not going to appear on national television either. Yes, your ego and/or obsessiveness won’t like any of this, but keep chanting it to yourself. You’ll eventually be the better off for it.
Their motivations for playing stemmed from reasons overriding the “competition” factor.
Maybe they’re playing because of the social aspect of the Green Room. Maybe they’re playing because they want/need writing prompts and/or practice. Maybe they’re playing because they were convinced it was the thing to do. There are many other reasons, of course, but it all boil down to one thing — it’s not about the winning.
The contestants who never lose sight of their initial motivations tend to do better overall in nearly every aspect of Idol.
OK, so they may or may not be in the Top 10/20/30, etc., but they’re successful in other ways. They play without batting an eyelash. Sure, they’d like to continue playing as the season progresses, and may be initially disappointed when they’re voted out, but it’s not the end of the world to them. They’ve made lots of friends in the process. Their writing has improved. They tackled topics which, perhaps, they never would have thought of tackling on their own. Perhaps they’ve surprised themselves and everyone else in other ways. They return the following season bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. There’s inherent beauty and wisdom in their approach. Think about it.
You obsessiveness won’t like any of these theories. It never does, never will. It will lodge the “must win” factor deep within your cerebellum and try to keep it there. Your job is to gently exorcise it and place it somewhere so it can babble and sputter on its own. Don’t tease it, don’t encourage it — in fact, ignore its existence for awhile. It will sputter and babble louder, but that’s what it’s programmed to do.
Your job is to write. Just write. Put on earplugs if you have to. Don’t feed the obsessiveness. Find other things to do when you’re not writing. If you sneak a peek at the polls, don’t linger. Acknowledge it and move on.
It can be difficult, I know. But it can be done. You’ll be a happier contestant. After all, isn’t that what Idol is about?