Creative Risk-Taking


Dolly Parton turns 76 today. Whether you like her singing or don’t, and regardless of how you view her campy, glittery style, I think it’s fair to say that Parton is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a singer and songwriter, an actress and author, a businesswoman and lately a humanitarian. Her Imagination Library book gifting program has given away almost 1.5 million books to children worldwide.

I find Parton inspiring. I love her sense of humour and willingness to poke fun at herself. I’m awed by her songwriting skills. She can tell a story and make us feel deeply in just a few hundred words. The Coat of Many Colors, written on a dry-cleaning receipt because that’s all she could find when inspiration struck, is a timeless song about how rags feel like riches when they’re stitched together with love and worn with pride. I Will Always Love You, which was written as a farewell to her business partner and mentor (and made famous when it was sung by Whitney Houston), is about holding onto love even after saying a final goodbye.

Dolly wrote her first song when she was about five. She called it Little Tiny Tassletop, and it was about a doll she made from a corn cob, dressed in corn husks and topped with corn silk for hair. She began writing in earnest when she was seven or eight. Today, it’s estimated she has written over 5,000 songs.

However, despite her formidable talent as a songwriter and singer, what inspires me most about Dolly Parton is her creative risk-taking and her willingness to give things a shot, even if she might look silly doing them. She lives by her own standards and follows her own North Star. Dolly says it best:

“You never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”

“The magic is inside you; there ain’t no crystal ball.”

“I’m very real where it counts, and that’s inside.”

“I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist, but I do think of myself as a ‘professionalist.’ I always strive to simply be my very best.”

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”

Happy birthday, Dolly.

4 thoughts on “Creative Risk-Taking

  1. Another interesting post, Laura! Dolly Parton is definitely an amazing woman. There was a podcast series out about her a couple of years ago. I found it fascinating.

    1. I find Parton interesting as well, Debra. A contradiction in terms in many ways, but if all accounts are to be believed, she’s incredibly kind and giving. And there’s no denying her considerable talent . . .

  2. Songwriters, like Dolly, always amaze me by their ability to tell a moving, emotional story in just a few words. Alicia Rasley once gave a workshop on story ideas to VIC-RWA and she used country and western songs as a springboard into the discussion because they were so complete and so short.

    1. I’m always amazed too, Alice. Writing short (picture books come to mind!) is surprisingly hard. I think songwriters have a true gift.

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