29 August 2008

Who needs validation? We do!

Like many Americans, I’ve been watching the Olympics. Just the other day, I watched a swimming race that brought tears to my eyes. A swimmer was all alone on the television giving it everything he had. Determination was etched on his face and you could see the effort behind every stroke. No, it wasn’t Michael Phelps. It was Eric Shanteau, the Georgian swimmer who just flew back to Atlanta for cancer treatment. It wasn’t his story that made me cry, though. He hit that wall and spun to look at the timer. He was so thrilled with his time that he jumped up in the water with a cry of victory. Now, here’s the thing. He didn’t win a medal. He didn’t even make it into the finals. What he did do was beat his personal best time in the semi-finals of the Olympic Games.

It was his dream and the validation of years of training.

Now, let’s turn our eyes over to the Men’s Gymnastics team. They were counted out of the medals despite making it into the team finals. But instead of letting the burden of doubt get them down, they used it to fire them up. At each apparatus, it was all about the team. They were loud, supportive of each other, and had the attitude of them against the world, which wasn’t far from the truth. By the middle of the meet, silver was in sight. A mistake and a questionable judging score put it out of reach and they were in the bronze. It all came down to a flawless performance by a man on the hardest event – the pommel horse – to cinch the bronze medal.

I’ve never seen more people happy to take third. It was the validation of years of training and sacrifice.

So it made me start thinking about us. Writing isn’t a sport, but it is a skill that takes years to hone and perfect. Athletes pushing for that elite competitive level face the question of packing up and taking their trophies home a thousand times before they make it to the Olympics. But what about us? Unlike athletes, there aren’t a lot of junior competitions to get us ready for success, if we ever find it. There are no coaches to groom and train us.

No, we’re pretty much on our own. Or are we?

What do you use to validate the hours you spend on the manuscripts you pound out? Are you a Jon Horton, cheering on your friends despite being one of their greatest competition threats? Are you a Eric Shanteau, pushing to realize your dream while pushing back life-changing consequences?

What says you’ve made it? Is it that first request for a full? Is it a contest final? Or, better yet, win? Is it that personal rejection from that major New York house? Or are you going for gold and will not be validated until that first big contract offer?

As for me, I have a checklist of small things to large things. But I’m also lucky enough to have a team in my corner, too. I have friends who are there to celebrate the big scores as well as commiserate the near misses. We share our cookies and our triumphs and our short falls. And, each in our own way, find our personal validation along the way.

What about you? Tell us what validates your writing…or everything else in your life. *grins*
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