What’s Important 7: Validation

Note: A few years ago I wrote a series of pieces on “What’s Important.” They got a decent amount of traffic on my old blog, so I’ve decided to re-run them on my new site.

be a full time writer.  I want to do these things to prove that my decision to write wasn’t just some weird, flight of fancy.  I want to show that this thing that I do that was wholly my creation and my creation alone is valid.

It’s not that my parents ever actively discouraged me from writing (although there were a few moments).  It’s just not something they really understood.  Honestly, they still don’t.  And that’s fine.  I can’t imagine that I’m going to understand everything that my theoretical child values.

But I’m a Midwestern kid from a middle class family and importance is placed on things that don’t include writing.  Importance is placed on crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.  You go to high school to go to college to get a job to meet someone to get married to start a family.  You might take a winding road to get there, but those are the main stops.

And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.  For as hard as it’s been for me to adjust to my new, suburban lifestyle, I’ve started to accept it, and realized that there’s nothing wrong with it.  There’s nothing wrong with a house in a cul-de-sac in a good school district.  There could be worse paths for me to be placed on.

But writing was never a road that was laid out for me.  Writing was a road I created because some stupid part of my brain said that I needed it.  Writing is my thing.  And for some reason, I want to prove that it’s worthwhile.

The dichotomy at work there is interesting.  If I’ve learned anything since I was a little kid, it’s that writing is a singular pleasure that can only be experienced by the writer.  It’s not that other people can’t enjoy what someone writes, but they will never get the thrill out of it that the writer does.  On that level, writing is something you can only ever do for yourself, because only you can fully appreciate it.  And yet I still want people to read my work, and I want them to enjoy it and eagerly anticipate more.

I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.  I think being aware of a theoretical audience has ultimately made me a better writer.  I could churn out pages and pages of junk and never bother to edit it if I was only thinking of myself.  After all, why re-write those pages if they’re just for your own enjoyment?  If it’s just for fun, it really makes no difference.  But if it’s to express something, then someone else eventually has to read it, unless you’re in desperate need to express something to yourself (which is another issue entirely).

I’ve started to get better about these things.  I still day dream about a book deal, about giving notice at my job because I can afford to write full time.  I’ve written entire interviews in my head with Poets and Writers.

I think the weight of the life my parents always wanted me to have has lessened; it no longer crushes the life I chose for myself.  There’s a balance starting to form, one which hopefully allows me to be content with the process of writing.

Now I just need to figure out how to do that without alcohol.

 Not the song I ripped off, but Jawbox’s cover of Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl”

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