Life Experiences, writing and self-worth

Q: You must have conflict to write a story and life is full of conflict, so therefore we draw from life to write our stories, right? Well, I led sort of a sheltered life growing up, and I feel I subconsciously sought out conflict just so I could have a story and not be bored. I felt that unless I had something of significance to say, my life would be meaningless. But that isn’t healthy, is it? People tell me I must be happy with myself despite whether or not I get validation from others for my efforts. How do you go about life without caring what others think of you?

Everyone is different. Sometimes I envy people who have "colorful lives" -- there's so much experience and conflicts and pain and suffering, etc. to fill 100 books. Then again, I ask myself: Is that really what I want? No. I want happiness and peace and love. And if I never write a book again because I'm happy with my life -- so be it.

There are more than one question in there. First, it's about life experiences and writing. Second, it's about validation and self-worth. I think as far as writing is concerned, we have imagination and also ways of doing research and observe the world around us. And nobody lives through life without any kind of conflicts, heartaches, pain and sorrow anyway, so we can all draw from those experiences. So to me, it's not an either or, but what and how a writer can use all the tools at his or her disposal, and that may include personal experiences, imagination, thoughts, observation, and research.

As far as validation and self-worth are concerned, that's the tough one. Again, everyone is different. Some people can't be happy by themselves, and some can live happily after if no one was ever around. I think you need to find your own grooves -- what makes you tick. But I agree that if you depend your self-worth on external validations alone, then you'll find a whole lifetime of disappointment and sadness because you just can't please everyone. Even the most famous, "well loved" people in the world are targets for ridicules and hatred by many. The more well-known you are, the more people want to trash you. And no matter what you do, what you write, there are going to be naysayers and detractors. There are going to be people who tell you "you suck." My advice is, know yourself -- try very hard to do so -- and focus on the positives in your life. Yes, bad things happen, but we don't have to dwell on them. Learn from them and use what you learn in your art, but you don't have to live in tears constantly to write great stories.

I've spent my life trying to get validation, and as I get older, I depend less and less on others to find that inner peace and satisfaction. And also, I realize I can't write worth a damn when I'm depressed or unhappy -- those feelings don't fuel my writing at all. I have to be at peace, and happy to be truly creative and productive. That's me. But it doesn't mean I can't learn from my experiences when I'm down and out. To me, life's one big continuum and there's no set schedule. And that kind of unpredictability is what's so exciting!


Marianne said…
Hi Ray,
I saw your answer to this on the forums - it's cool how you're carrying it over to your blog. Thanks! I also like the post above and learning about your experiences...I only hope I can have a percentage of your success someday!
Ray Wong said…
And I wish I had a percentage of Rowling's success. ;)

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