I admit it: I have done my fair share of lusting for success and validation for my writing. But I’m putting this out here because I wish to let go of these thoughts. And publishing them somewhere where anyone can read them is my version of shock therapy. Will anyone find this post is another question. But for sure, even the possibility for this confession to be read by anyone is terrifying enough.
Now, let’s be honest. Nobody really, other than my mom, my husband, and a few close friends, reads this blog. And this, I’m embarrassed to say, has weighed on my mind as well as my short stories getting rejected (though I haven’t sent out nearly enough of them to justify being upset about it). Last but not least, the fear of being judged for what I say in my writing has been heavy on my mind too. All of this made me forget how much I love writing. The process of writing. Putting one word after another, and then doing it again, and each time trying to do it better than the last until a whole new world comes to life. And all of this with utter love.
There are enough hardships in life even without having to struggle with the demons that we ourselves flesh to life. Thirst for appreciation drowns an artist’s personal creative voice, especially when this thirst mingles with the act of writing a first draft, or creating a first sketch or prototype, etc. I’m with Stephen King on this one: when penning down the very first version of a story, it’s best to shut the door on everybody and everything, and contain all ambition to pleasing just yourself. Judicious, but bold: it’s a fine balance to maintain when in the act of creation. Criticism and (constructive) self-criticism have an honorable place later in the creative process.
Elizabeth Percer puts it simple and true: “Validation is junk food.” Ego and ambition choke the love of doing things purely for the sake of doing them. And then, everything is harder. Even doing what one loves. It’s true that we all need to make a living, and this entails taking stock of trends and the market. But very few artists have found success, let alone fulfillment, without tending and setting free their genuine voice. And when I say “setting free,” I really mean it. It’s an act of liberation: liberation of the mind, and liberation from ambition, ego, and fear.
It takes guts, though, being genuine, lots of guts. Yet, there is no other way to tap into a sustainable pool of creativity and to keep showing up to create with drive and love. So, today, I choose a creative life firmly grounded in perseverance not because of some external objective, but because of the tended fire within.
It’s much more fun that way anyway.
Image from Pablo