While teaching a workshop at the Southern California Writers Conference, I heard myself say words I had not planned to say. “Your work is valuable. Your stories, your voice, your questions and descriptions and wisdom and characters, already exist. Whatever happens later, this creation of yours is part of the human experience, part of the tapestry of life.”
Confession: Maybe I was talking to myself as much as to the passionate writers in the room. Writers who, by the way, are not naïve about the odds of achieving profitable publishing experiences. These writers are committed to their craft despite all the information we receive on pitiful authorly monetary earnings and the grind of ceaseless marketing efforts that are expected—and will always be expected—on that nifty human invention, The Internet.
My sentiment was well received, in any case. A couple of the workshop attendees teared up. They said they felt encouraged. Heartened. Validated.
And that got me thinking. (Yes, I do that sometimes.)
Maybe today your mantra is: My art exists; I exist. But tomorrow your mantra may be: My kids are home; I exist. (Although my son is preparing to move to Japan for his first engineering job designing airplanes.) Or your mantra could be, I am a professional clinician; I exist. Or I am an activist; I exist. I have a savings account; I exist. I am still attractive; I exist. I am in love; I exist. Even, I hurt; I exist.
And on and on and onandon.
Because the above examples equal the same thing. VALIDATION. We crave meaning. We yearn for impact, to be remembered and know we matter and mattered. We need approval with all its faces, or affection on certain emotions or responses, to know we are alive.
The need to feel validated reminds me of one big sixth grade classroom. If my peers don’t like me and the teacher doesn’t give me a good grade, I disappear. See me. Hear me. Touch me. Heal me.
Oh, and let’s not forget Power. “If I control others, if I control the world, then I will always exist.” Which begs the question: Would dictators invade other countries if they did not need so much validation?
Anyway, it’s just a thought, just a blog for today.
In my humble opinion, if a tree exists in a forest and we don’t see it, yes, it is still there. The tree is beautiful, tall, brimming with life. Similarly, if a person is growing older and doesn’t get this or that dream, that person is still there and fully layered. AND if a book is not appreciated or sold enough, it is still a whole world waiting for anyone who cares enough to delve into.
P.S. If a dictator with an endless and empty ego invades another country, then that huge player on the world stage is still a tiny, tiny man with corrupt insides.
In other words, we are what we are, with or without the recognition or approval of others.