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We’re pretty cool at MNSU, lol! Martin Zellar was in residency for three days as the inaugural artist in the Minnesota Storytellers series.

Because he’s a songwriter, and I teach writing, I invited him to my reporting and editing class. He talked about his career, the writing process, and working with the press. (“Do your research,” he told the students. “It’s obvious when you’re being interviewed and they have no idea who you are.”).

I enjoyed his visit as a writer — so much of what he said about the music business also applies to the writing business and any type of creative arts. Here are three takeaways:

1. Community. Zellar talked about the supportive community that was the Minnesota music scene in the late 1980s. They all supported each other. Bob Mould took the Gear Daddies on tour because they were friends. And if a bad word was said, Minneapolis is a relatively small town and a small scene — word would get back.

I’ve always viewed the Minnesota literary community this way. I can’t wait to go to the Minnesota Book Awards because I’ll get to see friends. The vibe is, we’re all in this together. Let’s support success, because when one is lifted up we’re all lifted.

Speaking of success

2. Zellar said that competition in the music world stems from the idea that there’s only a finite amount of success to go around. When one person gets a record deal, that doesn’t mean that’s a deal no longer available to another musician. There aren’t a finite number of record deals available, there aren’t a finite number of books allowed to be published each year, there’s not a finite number of tenure appointments available.

3. Perseverance. I’m so glad Zellar mentioned this at his show on Tuesday night. This is the quality most important to an artistic career, in my opinion. I tell my students and people in my writing workshops that I have a book not because I’m more talented than other would-be writers, but only because I persevered. I didn’t give up, even though I wanted to at times. It was a 13-year slog between starting the memoir and publication date. But in that time I grew and read and learned a lot. I worked on my craft, and the writer I was in 2013 was better than the writer I was in 2000. I hope that the writer I am now is better than the writer I was in 2013.

Zellar’s story is inspiring. He has made a career out of doing what he loves. He’s someone who is living his passion. He inspired me, and I’m sure he inspired many students on campus as well.

The next Minnesota Storytellers event is Dave Simonett. He’ll be playing a show and doing a Q&A at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, at MNSU.

 

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