Val·i·da·tion……valəˈdāSH(ə)n……noun: validation……The action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something. The action of making or declaring something legally or officially acceptable. Recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile…
At some point in your life, maybe sooner than you think, you may decide to self-produce or self-publish something that you’ve toiled over for months, years or even decades, and now want to share with an audience. That something may be a play, a film, a book of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, a mixtape, an art exhibition, an app…Whatever it is, if you decide to do for self and self-whatever, it won’t be long before some well-meaning family member or friend will ask if you haven’t considered one of the more established means of production for whatever your project happens to be. It may go something like this:
You: Hey! How you doing? What’s up?
Your Friend: Oh, not much. Just got a promotion at work. You’re looking at the new VP of sales. I’ll be overseeing an entire district. First Black VP in the history of the company. Thinking about upgrading the Lexus. Wife and I are going on another cruise in January. Hawaii this time. You know, all the islands. Bringing my mom along too this time. Actually, I’m just on my way to Holt Renfrew to meet both of them to pick up some travel clothes…What are you up to?
You: Me? Uh. Well, you know –
Your Friend: Still doing the theatre thing?
You: (defensively) Yeah. I’m still doing it. The theatre. It’s my thing. I’m actually working on producing a play that I wrote.
Your Friend: Oh really?! That’s great! Nice. Yeah, I uh…I remember seeing that play you did a couple of years ago at that festival. In that little theatre. The one with the uh…bench seats.
You: Yeah. Well, this is a new play. Got the whole team together. We’re writing grants. Doing some fundraisers. It’s very exciting.
Your Friend: Cool! That’s cool. Glad to hear you’re still doing it…Wife and I went to see (fill in the name of any popular Broadway musical) last year at the Royal (whatever). It’s a really beautiful theatre. Really big. Comfy seats…Have you ever thought about getting one of your plays produced there?
I assure you, the above scenario is neither far-fetched nor rare. And when it inevitably happens, you’ll immediately feel a flash of white-hot rage, then a small pang of pain and sorrow in the pit of your stomach, followed (hopefully) by something approaching love for the person who made the suggestion, and finally by some soul searching and mercifully, at some point, relief and determination.
Let’s break it down…
"What makes people weak? Their need for validation and recognition, their need to feel important. Don't get caught in this trap."
- Paulo Coelho
The white-hot rage
Does the absence of material things mean that a life is meaningless? In other words, if you were doing what you should be doing, would you then be validated with tangible proof like a luxury vehicle and expensive vacations and impressive titles? But you don’t care about titles. Never have. And not only do you not need a luxury vehicle, you don’t even have a driver’s license.
What about your age? Shouldn’t you have this, that and the other by such and such an age? Look at your Friend: the same age as you, and already a VP of sales; overseeing an entire district; and the first Black person in his company to do this. Yeah, but he has to work on the corporate plantation and conform. And maybe he likes that. So, that’s good for him. But every time you’ve ventured into the corporate world, it’s been like trying to squeeze a square jagged soul into a bottomless round pit. It’s bearable for short stints, but beyond that. No…Look. If you had chosen that path, you probably would have found a way within it. Maybe you would’ve even become a first something or another. But maybe to be a first something in the 21st Century means that you’re not really wanted there. And what exactly did you have to do to get there? And how do you really feel now that you’re there? You shouldn’t have to want what you don’t want. And in fact, you don’t have to. So let the anger go.
The Pang of Pain and Sorrow
The recognition of the expected life not lived: a real feeling, but thankfully fleeting.
Something Approaching Love for the Person Who Made the Suggestion..
This is a really interesting sensation. Of course, the white-hot rage mentioned earlier is an indication of anger towards the person. But this overwhelming feeling of love is the acknowledgement of the fact that your Friend obviously thinks highly enough of both you, and your work, to suggest you offer it to some established entity, (obviously) much better equipped than yourself, to get it out into the world. Of course, you’ve probably already thought of this yourself – and for a myriad of reasons still decided to self-whatever. Perhaps you’ve worked with a mainstream organization in the past and loved it, but want control over this particular project. Perhaps you don’t think a mainstream organization would be interested in this particular project. Perhaps you approached a mainstream organization and they told you that they weren’t interested in this particular project. Perhaps you’ve decided that rather than spend all of your energy trying to get validation from someone else, you will choose your own work, and choose how it’s presented to the world. Perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above. Perhaps it’s just one of a plethora of choices that an artist can make regarding how they want to share their work – none being more valid than any other.
"You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody."
– Maya Angelou
Some Soul Searching, Relief and Determination
This is the best part. Why? Because here is where you get to explain to yourself why in fact you want to do the project. Why you want to self-whatever. Why you want to control the way that your art is shared with an audience. You might realize that indeed you do want to try (if you haven’t already), to approach a mainstream organization. Or you may decide that you want to present your work in the way that you want, and if a mainstream organization expresses interest, you would be open to that. Or you may decide that you’re not going to think about anything other than bringing your art to an audience in the way that you want to, while providing work for the other like-minded artists that you choose to work with, for no other reason than to share your work. And now you can exhale, knowing that the choice to self-produce is a perfectly valid choice – just as valid as any other choice. It’s you validating yourself, and the other artists you choose to work with. And it’s them validating you. Ultimately, it’s a group of humans determined to bring something into existence to share with some other humans. And hopefully your Friend will return from his cruise in time to go to your opening night.
Thanks for reading…