Apologies to Pink Floyd, but the title popped into my head and it seemed too good to pass up. Validation of my work and my abilities in many creative and professional areas is something with which I struggle daily, and giving up that dependence on validation is tough. Really, really tough.
One of my favorite television shows is “Whose Line is It Anyway?” (and the link is to the original UK version). The tag line for the show, “the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter” speaks volumes, especially when you consider its format. Four comedians, one host, and a half hour of suggestions from audience members and creative writers fuel a flurry of improv that leaves you snorting with laughter or wrinkling your nose at the unbelievable fail of a line or gag. It takes amazing courage to be an improv actor and throw yourself at the mercy of the audience/host, because if the idea or gag falls flat, you have to keep going. You can’t rely on the audience validation or host validation, because… well, there are no points. It’s not a competition, it’s a comedic exercise of wit and whimsy, and constantly waiting for outside validation can mean missing an opportunity for the next joke or comeback.
I wish I was that secure in my own creativity. When I get emails from authors for whom I read and they compliment me on the work that I did for a character or an audiobook chapter, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Often, I’ll tell my husband, reading the email aloud while doing a little dance of triumph around the living room or kitchen. His response?
“Well, of course. You’re good at what you do. I don’t know why you’re always surprised when other people like your work.”
(If it’s not obvious, I am mad-crazy head-over-heels for this man. Perfect response.)
To be honest, I don’t know why I’m always surprised, either. I’m not as confident about my writing as I am with my voicework, but I have more voicework out for people to hear compared to the amount of writing that I have out there to read. Putting more writing out and being confident in one’s ability does require giving up a need for constant validation. That doesn’t mean abandoning it completely; I still need recommendations and endorsements from past clients to help me land new voicework. What it means ties into one of my three words for 2013, brave. Forging ahead and not waiting for that validation is important when you want to create; for myself, I need to get work out. That writing needs to get out for critique, not to determine whether or not I have the ability, but how I can improve and refine that ability to get better.
In many areas of higher education, the promotion and recognition system for non-faculty members is broken. Performance reviews mean very little, as there is either no raise or a standard cost of living increase that does not reflect the effort or improvements that one has made in the past year. Everything is made up, and the points don’t matter… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the work is not good. Just because your work is not valued by another person doesn’t mean that it’s not good; some people and some entities will never value the work and efforts of others. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn personally, but I can take that lesson and translate it into my creative work. Regardless of what the masses say, I write. And write. And refine, and write some more.