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*


Anonymous said...

Great blog Kaye!

I think that if you have confidence and realize that life is not always going to work out as you would like, you can usually take anything life throws your way.

Great friends and family are a bonus :)

Dana Marie Bell said...

What validates me? When a reader lets me know how much they enjoy my work. There's nothing quite like knowing I helped someone laugh or sigh with pleasure. That's when I know I'm doing something right. =)

Carolan Ivey said...

Wonderful blog, Kaye! There are many small validations for me, but mainly I'm with Dana - it's when a reader lets me know they loved my story.

It's also when...

-My Dad says he's proud of me.

-My husband comes home from work and says "Hey, I sold another one of your books today." (Which kind of makes me afraid to go to the company Christmas party!)

-Typing THE END!

-Getting together with other writers and remembering anew that I'm Not Alone in my madness. LOL

-Talking with people who would like to become writers but don't know how - or are afraid.

-Winning the right to display a golden harp in my sig line on the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids message board for a short piece of non-fiction I wrote for the quarterly Eisteddfod - where no one knows me by my pen name.

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

It's kind of sad, but thinking about it, I realize I do need outside validation. Be it a royalty check, fan mail, a great critique from a friend, a review...somebody ELSE telling me what I'm doing is not a waste of my time.

Jody W.

Carolan Ivey said...

You know, when I first embarked on this journey, my husband (the engineer, 'nuff said) was the one asking me why I was wasting time doing something I might never make money at. I looked at him and answered, "Why do you breathe?"

It took a while to turn his attitude around, but he gets it now. :)

Kaye Chambers said...


Jody, sweetie, it's not sad - it's very human. HUGS!!

We all need a little validation.

And I agree with everyone. I framed my first fan mail email AND a photocopy of my first royalty check.

My husband doesn't quite get it, yet, but he's getting closer. *grins*

But the need to know that we're appreciated is deep set in all of us right alongside that personal drive for personal accomplishment.

Even now, typing THE END on a manuscript even when I don't plan on trying to submit it out in the immediate future sends a thrill through me.

Isn't it great to live our dream?

mamasand2 said...

Great blog and a very thought provoking question Kaye.
What validates my stuff???
As a former computer programmer and Systems Analyst, it was the personal satisfaction of designing and writing a payroll package that did it all without errors.
As a woman who loves crochet and knitting, it's two fold, both my satisfaction with the baby blanket (etc.), and the comments and approval from friends and family. That is always welcome no matter what you are doing.
But first I need to be satisfied that I did my best.



Jaycee Nevaeh said...

great blog post....i think friends help to validate us a great deal