My Dream of Writing a Hit Christmas Song Actually Came True — Here’s How
Since I was a child, the only thing I ever wanted to do was write a great Christmas song, a song that would take its place next to all the holiday classics on the radio. As happens with most childhood fantasies, though, real life interrupted and set me on the road to practicality. I grew up in New York City, after all, not an easy place to make it, let alone dream.
Christmas throughout my life was always filled with music and memories—the piney scent of Christmas trees, the wonderful, warm reunions with family members who never seem to materialize except for the holidays. For as long as I can remember, I appreciated the wondrous magic of the season, and I kept a special place in my heart for all those great Christmas songs that played on the radio.
Music, and the songwriters who shared their gifts, became a huge part of my DNA. It was a key component not only to my happiness, but an indelible Christmas-cookie crumb trail, if you will, leading to who I was as a person. I wanted nothing more than to commemorate this Christmas dream before my time.
Truthfully, I had multiple shots to make it in the music business. When I was 15, I was signed by C&C Music Factory. But six years later, with a pair of shelved albums on my music résumé, I knew it was time to do some soul searching. When I was released from my record deal at 21, I moved into my own apartment and started to think about the future.
About a month later, September 11, 2001, changed everything. I grew up with my family in the shadows of the Twin Towers, and for most of that fateful day, I thought my parents had died in the attack. They did not, but they were left homeless by the tragedy, and my mother was traumatized by the terrible events of that day. Everything I ever dreamed, or wanted, that was related to music suddenly seemed like a frivolous pursuit.
Like any good daughter, I moved on. Time to let go of the music and join the real world. So I did.
And I did pretty well. A year ago today, I was an executive-level a**kicker at one of the world’s premier media companies. To many people, I was living the American dream. I had the corner office, was paid on the high-end of the salary grid, and received all the perks and benefits that go with it. But there was a void. I was depleted, devoid of passion. I had excelled at every position and/or mission on my radar, but still ached to fulfill my deeper dream of becoming a songwriter. Oh Christmas music, where art thou?
In the past, I often remarked to my husband and friends about my Christmas dream. As always, they would nod along, but I soon found that spilling my guts about this crazy idea (particularly a holiday-themed one) was a lot like that friend who keeps talking about opening a bar in the Bahamas. It’s stuff you say, not a thing you do.
Until I did it.
Incredibly, the stars aligned. It took an extraordinarily bad meeting, a hellacious encounter that made me stagger out of the room and wonder if there was anything else on Earth I could be doing with my life. After downing drinks with colleagues and lamenting the same, I stumbled onto a job-listings site.
It was there I found the link to a site called Failure Club, which proposed the question, "If you could eliminate your fear of failure today, what would you accomplish?" In my most naked state of despair—with maybe a smidgen of drunken daring thrown in—I emailed the website declaring my dream of writing a Christmas song.
I didn’t know this at the time, but Failure Club’s founder was working with acclaimed filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ('Super Size Me,' '30 Days') and would go onto produce a documentary series of the same name. The idea of the club and Web series centers on the fear of failure, something I was definitely struggling with at the time. I joined the cast of the Failure Club and began my mission of becoming a world-famous Christmas songwriter, but with millions of people scrutinizing my every move.
Talk about long odds: I hadn’t sung a note in a decade, I had never written a Christmas song, and I didn’t even know how to tune a guitar. Every day, I chipped away at my fears and started to build an arsenal of melodies. I posted my work on YouTube so I would learn to share my dream, no matter how good or bad the songs were. I hung Christmas ornaments on all my wall hooks, watched Christmas movies and listened to Christmas music during every spare moment I had. Lo and behold, one morning I woke up and realized I had written 200 Christmas songs.
It was at that point that I decided to walk away from the safety of my day job and face my fear of failing straight on, with reckless abandon.
A year later, I was fortunate to be able to have inspired thousands of people to go after their dream, by leaving myself hangin’ out there, baby, for the entire world—to watch me fail, or succeed.
But something wonderful happened. I didn't fail. For once in my life, I'm in exactly the right place at the right time.
My very first Christmas album, 'Naughty & Nice,' debuted at #4 on iTunes and is currently a top 50 featured holiday album. The first single, 'A Christmas Song,' premiered on a radio station in Duluth, Minnesota. My Christmas music (and pursuing my Christmas dream) helped me to learn how actualize a better me.
And the best part about my new career? I get to write more Christmas music all over again next year, and continue to share my incredible dream with all of you!
Listen to an interview with Elizabeth Chan here, and visit her official site here.