“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”
— Ray Bradbury
Validation is the enemy of all great creative work.
Are you creating for acceptance from your peers? Your mentors? Are you creating solely out the economic necessity? Are you writing a book to become a best-selling author? Are you moving people just so you can prove to yourself that you and your work is worthwhile?
The validation trap is real. In this place we’re always moving the needle forward, because over there (once we have the success), we’re finally good enough. Once we’re making such and such money. Once we have such and such job. Once we have such and such Instagram followers.
Living for these metrics is gonna’ make you miserable. It’s outsourcing your validation and good feelings to an ambivalent world.
It’s discounting your true creative gifts and purpose. It’s a guaranteed way to devalue yourself, make shitty art, and be miserable in the process. Sign me up.
Whenever we set out to create it can be too easy to sacrifice what’s in our hearts. We have this pristine vision and when we try to build from the raw materials we have in our cupboards it never resembles our original vision.
This is cool. This is the process.
But, the key to keep in mind is never compromise for the sake of external validation.
The only way to be at home with your creative work and create something truly beautiful and valuable is to come from a place of deep trust.
Trust that goes beyond you and reaches into the seed of the cosmos. Or, wherever the muse comes from.
If you’re good enough, and you’ve taken the time to learn your craft, then the art that flows through you will naturally be good enough, and awesome. Even if it’s not well received.
Every creative genius wasn’t well received at the start. But, be careful you have to check your ego at the door and have enough humility to realize if something you’re creating is actually shit (it happens).
But, most of us operate with the opposite kind of thinking in mind. Since we’re not good enough, we end up creating art that we hope will be well-received. If it is, then this means we’re good enough. Thank god. But, if it isn’t well-received then we have a fun ride on the endless spiral of self-doubt.
The process for avoiding this death trap line of thinking and creating is to become good enough first. Simple.
Stepping into this way of thinking requires inner work. It requires self-knowledge. It requires seeing the parts of you you fucking hate. It requires experimentation and a lot of failure.
Art that matters can’t be a formula and can’t fit into a box. Making something masterful requires courage, faith, and skill. Master these elements and you’ll start to work magic.
By everything I said above you’d be right to assume that I’m some myth-like figure who has everything figured out, and oozes self-validation from every pore. That assumption would be correct…
That paragraph is a lie.
The path of validation requires work, but that’s exactly what it is: a path. My heart always knew I would be a writer. It took a long time for my mind to listen.
When I published my first book I had my ego tied up in its production. I was afraid if it didn’t get a certain number of downloads I wouldn’t be worthy. I didn’t think the work was any good when I published it.
The good feelings came in waves when a few mentors (successful authors) I knew, downloaded the book. Ah, that must mean it’s, and I am, good enough! This cycle has kept up strong for the past few years, even with immense amounts of inner work, I couldn’t escape the validation trap.
According to the law of external validation, my second book was a flop, and my third book was a minor success. But, something shifted on the inside when it came time to birth the second and third books into the world.
I didn’t give a fuck how they did. I didn’t orchestrate some big launch. I didn’t send out advanced copies. I didn’t do any of the things you’re “supposed” to do. This could have been done out of fear, but I think it came from a knowing that my work can stand on its own.
I wanted to see those books out in the world. I knew that if they helped me, they should be able to help at least one more person.
When I crack the spine of one of those books I can sit in peace, knowing it’s not my best work (that’ll take millions of more words), but I actually enjoy reading it.
Not in an egoic sense that everyone in the world should read these words. But, in the sense that I liked the art I made, regardless of the perception of the work, or its performance in the marketplace.
What’s the takeaway?
Create something you love to create. Loving the process and the finished product means nothing is lost. Don’t sacrifice your integrity or the integrity of your work to bend to market forces or public perception. Art is more sacred than that, don’t you think?
You better enjoy the process, because the process of making is damn hard, and it’s the only thing you’re guaranteed.