This was originally posted on my personal LJ back in August, 2008.
It is so hard for me to believe that LJ Idol is going to start up again, in about a month! Something that I thought I would be a part of for a few weeks became a major part of my life for the better part of a year. Until the end I assumed that I would be a player this year as well. Since I won, and cannot play as a contestant anymore, I will simply offer up my thoughts on the competition in the form of some unsolicited advice to anyone who might be thinking of playing along.
First and foremost, I really believe that you need to go into the competition intending to have some fun and get some great entries done. Remember, there is no prize other than glory and an icon (though it is a very nice icon). If you win, you will get about three days of huzzahs from your friends who were following along, and then everyone will go about their lives. You can come back the next season and offer unsolicited advice, participate in the Green Room, and brandish your Idol Winner icon willy nilly, but in terms of fame and fortune, it’s not going to change your life.
In terms of how you view yourself and your own writing, however, it really can change your life. I was completely burnt out on writing when I started the competition. I hadn’t written a creative thing in years. Believe me when I say that by the time I made it to the Top 3, I became convinced that I could write anything I put my mind to. It changed me that much.
Now, once you have decided to participate and remind yourself that you are there to have fun, you can play however you want. You can be a hermit and assume that your writing will stand on its own merits, and it really might! I didn’t even look in the Green Room until the fourth or fifth week. But you’re doing it to have fun, right? Well, you may as well meet some new people along the way. I have made some really amazing friends through Idol. Some I have met in person. Some I have spent hours and hours and HOURS getting to know (we’ve been trying to find her a house!). Some I’ve spoken to on the phone, or IM’d with for hours, or talked to on a Live Chat over and over again. The friends I have made from Idol are priceless. So yes, you can be a hermit. But it’s more fun to be social. If you’re not sure what to do in the Green Room–if it looks like everyone already knows each other–don’t worry about it. Just jump in and introduce yourself and eventually you’ll be the one everyone knows.
You might decide to have a strategy for winning, and you might not. You might want to be in an alliance. You might want to cause drama! You might want to avoid drama. I happened to have played drama-free. In fact, I purposely avoided any news of it, didn’t want to hear about it, and even stopped people from talking about it. It seems to me that in any group of 150+ people there are going to be some personality issues. It’s how you react to it that will determine how happy you are with the game.
Anyway, that’s enough about strategy or lack thereof! Let’s talk about time commitment. When you start off, you will generally need to write one entry per week. Now, if that sounds easy to you, great! If it doesn’t, then you’ll either need to find the time to do the writing or pass (or play the home game instead). For me, one entry equated generally to a few hours of thinking and a couple of hours of writing. You might be able to pull out an essay in an hour on a topic that you’re familiar with, but when confronted with an assignment, it might take some more thinking time, so be prepared. If you make it further along, you might have to do two entries in a week, or even three. We had to do 16 entries in 12 days at one point. It may seem daunting now, but if you get that far, you figure out how to get it done. Not one single person in that group missed one of the sixteen entries, and, in fact, everyone was done before the deadline. You learn to stretch yourself to do what you thought was impossible.
The topics will get personal, so if you’re not comfortable writing about yourself, this is probably not for you. It will get introspective. It might even get uncomfortable. Your posts will have to be public, at least through the voting, so if you don’t think you can stand to have your introspective work read by strangers, again, it’s not going to work. But if you can do it, you will learn more about yourself than you thought was there.
That said, you can make of every topic what you will. You take a topic and run with it. When I wrote on the topic “Organization,” I wrote about an organization I belonged to in college, not about my inability to keep things in their place. Someone questioned whether it was the intent of the topic, and the answer I gave was that you can make of it what you will. (As a point of fact, I was the one who suggested the topic in the first place!) So if a topic seems like it might make you squirm, you can turn it around and write something you would rather write (within reason, of course). Last season, everyone also had two “bye” weeks that they could take up until we reached the Top 50. In the end, I did take both of mine, for personal reasons. I ended up writing on one of them (“Giving Thanks”) as one of my “do-over” assignments toward the end.
So that’s about it. It’s a lot of fun, and the social aspects are strangely addictive. Months later, I still find myself checking the community first thing in the morning, expecting to see something new. I’m a little sad that I cannot compete, but I’m really glad that I can play the home game. If you would like for me to address anything else, just ask in the comments and I will be happy to!
See you in the Green Room!