Some of my favorite TV shows these days are reality TV shows. (Come to think of it, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately too, but we’ll analyze the meaning of that in another blog post.) The ones I love the most are So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, and Extreme Weight Loss. Do you see the obvious pattern there? All about people chasing their goals and, for the hardest working–or maybe the luckiest–reaching those goals. Maybe not everyone can be the winner, but many times other contestants go on to make careers for themselves.
I cry watching these shows. A lot. Especially those 4-chair turns. Oh man, do they get me. There’s nothing in the world better than seeing the look on the face of someone who has only ever wanted to be a singer or dancer or just to feel good in their own skin when they realize that dream is finally a real possibility for them. That’s what we all want–that moment when all the hard work has paid off, when all the daydreaming doesn’t seem so crazy anymore, when all the doubts disappear.
Writers’ Moments of Triumph
Writers’ moments of triumph usually aren’t as momentous. It’s the grasping for the right word and finding it. The moment when a plot untangles itself and the rest of the story seems so clear. It’s a kind word from the really tough-to-please critique partner. And then later, it’s the full request from an agent, or finally, FINALLY, an offer of representation. It’s having an editor who’s interested in your work, or, OMG, a book offer.
What all these moments have in common, though, is that usually they happen to us when we’re alone, with no one to celebrate with. There’s no confetti coming down from the ceiling, no Pharell Williams or Adam Levine to hug (such a tragedy). We don’t get to stand on a stage in front of my millions of people, or even just our family and friends, to celebrate our accomplishments. They happen quietly and sometimes they even happen in secret until all the paperwork is finalized. Many times, these accomplishments are so isolated, we even forget to reward and congratulate ourselves.
Remembering to Celebrate
It’s hard to feel excited about reaching a milestone in our careers when they happen in a near vacuum. Even when my writer friends shout out online to share the news, if I ask them what they plan to do to celebrate, they usually tell me, by starting work on my next book! There’s a certain amount of wisdom in not letting the excitement get to your head and derail you from your work, but amongst the writing community, there’s an undercurrent of unrest, of doubt, of always wanting to reach the next rung of the ladder without appreciating how far off the ground we’ve come. And I can’t help but wonder if part of that comes from skipping over our wins as if they never happened.
Or maybe you default to my favorite brand of celebration–enjoying a few hours of Facebook Likes and comments, and then moving on.
Pop psychology tells us that whatever we focus our energy on expands in our lives. If that’s true (and I think it is), it proves why taking some time to revel is so important. If we only focus on what we want next, we live in a constant state of lack. When we focus on what we’ve created, we turn our mindset into one of appreciation and self-esteem. Which outlook will nurture our spirits–and therefore our art–more?
Unfortunately, technology is still too limited to be able to transport Chris Powell to us each time we hit a goal, and I don’t think writers will be reading their query letters to a panel of judges on national TV any time soon (although, personally, I would totally vote for a show like that). In the meantime, it’s important that we learn to validate ourselves, to celebrate our accomplishments, and to make the fruit of our labor as important in our lives as the work itself. It’s not reprehensible to take pride in our moments of triumph, it’s essential. Don’t stamp down the moments of joy in your life, build on them.
It doesn’t take much: a day or, heck, a week to let the happiness wash over you and seep deep into your bones. Journal about it so you can name the emotions and solidify them in your consciousness. Plan your own party–you deserve it! Whatever you do, don’t let the moment pass you by. These are the moments that make all the blood, sweat, tears…life…worth it.