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Art for Validation

Listening to playtime with my seven-year-old daughter and her cousin today was revealing.

They were pretending to be artists. Great painters, hard at work on their masterpieces. But the whole time they were painting, all they could talk about was how they couldn’t wait to get online after and see all the praising comments everyone was making about their art.

Since neither girl has ever been a famous artist with wild amounts of online critiques about their work, I can only assume that playing at creating art for the acclaim of the internet comes from watching me over the last two weeks as I submitted my manuscript in an online competition. Riding high as it got accepted, and praised in comments, and biting my nails as requesting agents begin to reject it.

It hit just a bit too close to home. It made me think about why I write. Is it for the feeling of creation? For the potential money that may someday come my way? For the words of validation that may come from my readers?

And am I passing on to my children that what you do is only any good if someone tells you constantly that you’re awesome?

Sobering. I like to be praised as much as anyone. But I think today was just a moment to step back and hope that I’m taking the time to revel in the act of creation, in the creative process. And remember that the words—positive or negative—of agents and publishers and readers can’t make or break the experience for me.


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