How Criticism Makes You Better: a Case Study of Lindsey Stirling

So it’s been about a month since my last post on Chester, and I just wanted to pop in and say that I’m still alive, that it’s not all doom and gloom in the past month. I’ve experienced some emotional dips and crests, but life is all about riding the waves and making it back to shore anyway, so I’m choosing to take it one day at a time and focus on the things I can change and the things that make life worthwhile.

And recently I came across this (relatively) old video of the dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling and was blown away by how much she had improved since she first got her start on America’s Got Talent Season 5.

lindsey stirling

Image from Glamour

So you may know Lindsey when she first entered the spotlight back in 2005. She got voted off the show by the judges, but then went on to make incredible YouTube music videos that have garnered – wait for it – half a billion hits so far.

Check out part of her discography:

Song of the Caged Bird


Roundtable Rival

Lindsey is amazing, so talented yet humble and inspiring. I’ve been a huge fan of her since she first took the audition stage, a bright-eyed manic pixie girl who could dance and prance across the stage while playing the violin.

I call her an inspiration because, like a true artist, she is passionate about her craft and constantly, tirelessly, seeks improvement. Her audition at AGT was, objectively speaking, not the best. She was still pretty raw as a performer, like every artist would be at the start of the their journey. But she’s worked hard to fix her pitch problems and stage presence to become the absolute star she is now.

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Like a true artist, she is not content to rest on her laurels and stick to the tried-and-tested formulaic way of performing or playing. She does covers of popular tracks like:

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Greenday,

The Scientist by Coldplay (with Kina Grannis and Tyler Ward),

Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

Phantom of the Opera and Lord of the Rings medleys

As well as original pieces with her musician friends.

Like a true artist, she put herself out there, trying out for AGT and putting herself under public scrutiny and exposing herself to (often harsh) criticism, especially from the judges. Piers Morgan even said that she played like rats being strangled and that she wouldn’t be able to fill half a show at Vegas, and others said that the world doesn’t want to see a dancing violinist (basically implying that there was no place in the world for her).

lindsey stirling oh well

But like a true artist, despite feeling incredibly crushed after bring served all that criticism and voted off the show, she took all the judges’ feedback to heart and went somewhere with it. She knew that the judges were, in their own way, right. (Okay, they didn’t have to be so blunt but hey, take what you need from it and the rest is just white noise.) She became even better, more innovative and practised, in terms of her music and dance and craft and stage flair.

Almost 10 years later, she has released two original full-length albums and gone on sold-out world tours. Lindsey grew tremendously as an artist BECAUSE of the criticism.


And to see that rousing standing ovation she received at the end of her performance made me SO proud of her I cried. There IS a place for her music in the world after all.

She mentioned that despite being voted off the show, she still believed that she could make it, that she had something to offer the world. And she held on to that faith in herself. Turns out, there IS a place for her music in the world after all.

So perhaps, while we’re busy doubting ourselves as we take baby steps towards our dreams, we need to get out of our own way and hold on to the belief that the world will always have space for what we have to offer.

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Flash Fiction Friday – Makeshift

Today, I discovered that the amazing dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling (from America’s Got Talent) has a new album out. ‘Tis a good day.

This track in particular, Roundtable Rival, stood out as I was wrote today’s flash fiction:

Yup. THAT is Lindsey Stirling.

So with that, as well as this writing prompt,

here is this week’s short story.








It was there in the dusky, dusty chamber of the abandoned building that they made camp. Settling by the missing clock face, where the only shaft of light managed to edge in past the rusted hands, they got to work.

Mietha’s soldiers were trained for speed and accuracy, be it in battle or menial tasks like forging weapons. The best of them had had years of training in the sky children’s primitive technology. This time, they had one more thing on their side: Earth magic. It was not quite as advanced as that of the sea children, but here on this island in the human world, they were able to acquire what they needed from the black market.

Now, they set up their equipment: glass bowls and tin canisters, sandalwood for accelerated kindling, and rows and rows of bones meant for more meticulous arrangement later.

Their exiled general had been stranded at the island for long enough. In times like this, ranks were a secondary consideration, hierarchy demolished. And if anyone thought it was madness to trust in the two girls who would help conceal them from the rest of the human world, none of them voiced their dissent.

There in the quiet isolation of the abandoned building, with its crumbling walls and splintered roof shutters that let in the faint moonlight, the renegade rebels worked at twice their regular speed, creating more bodies for their disguise, their deception … never realising how close they came to being discovered by the white-tailed kite circling in the sky.




The Raptor, second in command to the missing prince of the renegade army, was having no luck with the bloodstone. After shifting into her human form and settling into a decrepit red-bricked building for more privacy, she had spent the better part of the hour trying to exhume the magic within the stone.

But the stone had a will of its own, and it was not relinquishing its secrets, no matter how she strained over it.

The Raptor — or Kivyn, as she was more commonly known among her kite family — flung the bloodstone across the room. It made a resonant clatter in the drafty, hollow quarters.

Curse these humans and their crude magic! How barbaric, how elementary — and not to mention messy — to use blood for magic.

It struck her as ironic that a Raptor, notorious for her ability to shred her enemies with her claws and blind them with her beak, would find something barbaric.

Time was running out for her. The monarchy was disintegrating back home, and the soldiers were rebelling. If she couldn’t find the crown prince, then the very least she could do was restore some order.

But prince or not, she couldn’t leave this world without Eylar. She didn’t know what he was to her, but she knew he was the only person she had ever trusted and cared for. And she would be damned if she let this world steal him away.




The rebel renegades froze at the sound of the clatter, the blood slowing in their veins. They were so close — it would be a terrible shame if they were forced to abandon their near-complete work now.

With renewed intensity, they completed the ritual. The sisters would be here soon, but first the soldiers had to get used to their new flesh, and learn to shift in and out with relative ease. It was tricky to grasp the intricacies of shifting — the best of them took weeks — but now they were to master their new bodies in the space of hours.

This rescue mission was doomed from the start, but they had to take whatever chance they had to steal their general back from the forgotten coast of Bastiron before the new emperor could recruit her — recruit being a far kinder term than what he would actually do.

This slaughter campaign was not for them, nor was annihilating the sea kingdom. What they would fight for, however, was the restoration of the old civilisation, the one that was now buried under this avalanche of hate and jealousy and fear.




When the rebel soldiers each stripped off their worn, battered bodies and stepped into their new flesh, so too did the Raptor shift into her creature self before taking off into the night in search of the blood she needed.

So opposing in their causes, but so similar in their execution. Chance was a concept often scorned by the renegades. But here they were, stepping into a makeshift life and taking all the chances they could to save their mangled home.



pretty pretty music!

I know Kina Grannis has been around for a while, and I’ve loved her voice ever since I heard “In Your Arms”, which is arguably her breakout song.

But now that she’s collaborating with male singers, her renditions are out of this world. The blend of their voices makes Kina’s voice sound all the sweeter.

An example: Kina teamed up with Tyler Ward and LINDSEY STIRLING (more on her in a bit!) to create this perfect cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist”:

OMG. I DIE. Lindsey’s violin + Kina and Tyler’s voices = ❤

Lindsey Stirling, in case you haven’t heard of her, was a contestant on America’s Got Talent and gained a massive following because of her, well, talent. She’s done several beautiful covers like this AWESOME Phantom of the Opera medley:

And this Lord of the Rings one:

She created original pieces too, such as Song of the Caged Bird:

And Crystallise:

I relied on a fair bit of her music while writing Blood Promise. Totally set the mood.

And if she’s not cool enough, how’s THIS street jam version of Transcendence:

Anyway, back to Kina. She’s just created another cover with Tyler Ward, this time of “Demons” by Imagine Dragons:

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