Over the summer, I re-read Anne Lamott's fantastic and illuminating Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I read it for the first time when I was 24. I'm 37 now. The part of Anne's book that resonated with me the most this time around was her section on publication, specifically the moment when she quotes the coach of the Jamaican bobsled team from the movie Cool Runnings. The coach says (and I'm paraphrasing) that if you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it. And Anne agrees, noting that "being enough" has got to be an inside job.
The 24-year-old me didn't understand the wisdom in those words. I was hungry back then and desperately wanted an agent, a book deal, and the recognition that (I believed) would result, figuring those things would mean I was a "real" writer. But the almost 40-year-old me looks at it differently.
For a while (too long, really), I'd lost sight of the fact that I write because I have stories inside of me that I want to share with readers. Validation won't come from landing an agent, a book deal, or even a place in the number one spot on The New York Times bestseller list (though I wouldn't say no to any of those things). Validation comes from knowing that I work hard at my craft every day (even on those days I don't feel like it). That I'm true to my art and myself. And that just one positive, unsolicited comment from one reader who's not my mother is what makes all the doubt and disappointments along the way worth it. Validation really does start from within. I get that now.
Anne recommends taping this reminder where you'll see it every day. I have mine taped to the side of my monitor and on my bathroom mirror. Seems maybe all of us writers -- unpublished and published alike -- could benefit from keeping this piece of writing (and life) advice in mind.
Happy writing (and validation), everyone.
The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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