From a deep and extraordinary conversation last night with the amazing K, some questions raised, some thoughts expressed, some feelings faced.

Back in the day, while studying music at the Henry Street Settlement in NYC, I saw something happen during a recital that has stayed with me for my entire life.

A young man stepped to the stage. A vocalist. Poised, confident—overly so. He set a large tape recorder down at his feet, clicked “Record”, took the microphone in hand, cued his accompanist and began.

His moves were lounge-lizard slick. His voice was completely wrong. He was pitchy; unmusical. Timbre and phrasing completely off. And yet, he was as comfortable and confident as a singer could be. The Frank Sinatra of Bizarro World.

How, I wondered, could that be? How could a person’s confidence be so completely out of touch with his reality?

It is a question that has stalked me for years…in my writing life, not my musical one.  There are so many writers—so much dreck that’s actually getting published…so much that’s actually making the best-seller lists–and so many authors who are utterly convinced of their greatness, their worthiness, their unequivocal talent.

But who knows? Who decides? Who is the arbiter of that judgment?

Dick Marek said to me “Just be confident in your talent and keep going.” Good advice. Great advice. But how do you know that it’s talent and not self-delusion you’re dealing with? Maybe you never do. Maybe you never will. That perfect pitch in the writer’s head that tells us when the words are balanced, evocative and right: Learning to trust that inner sound, creating to it (and hoping that recognition will follow) is one of the toughest tasks a writer faces, I think.

And the greatest fear? Being the singer with an audience, a microphone…and not a clue.

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