Validation is powerful. Late last year, in the infancy of SuddenWriteTurn and during my growing realization that writing is my calling, The Husband came across an announcement on a local news website. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was holding an essay contest:
Share your positive and inspirational stories of your experiences in New York’s great outdoors through the seasons. Tell us what activities you enjoy, what you have seen, what you like to do in the outdoors. Describe your favorite spot, a great personal challenge, triumph or an awe-inspiring view. Share how connecting with nature has affected your life.
After reading through my journal entries of our Adirondack hikes over the past few years, I settled down to write about my experience with New York’s great outdoors and then unceremoniously sent it off via email. Months passed; I visited the website and read the wonderful essays that won for December, January and February, and eventually decided that I alone probably loved my little outdoorsy essay. Nothing lost – it was a good exercise if nothing else.
Then a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from an official with the DEC. No, our groundwater is fine. They loved the essay I submitted, where I described how I felt while hiking in the Adirondacks, and how it changed my life. I had won the grand prize.
On Friday I received my award – a lovely art print by wildlife artist Greg Messier, presented by the DEC Region 8 Director, and a lovely little thing called “recognition.” A journalist from the local newspaper interviewed me, here, and since then everyone who has read my essay (family, friends, co-workers, the fine folks from the DEC, Facebook friends) has made the same statement: I could feel how you felt.
If I have only one goal as a writer and storyteller, it is that my reader/audience becomes totally immersed in my message, and feels how I feel.
Pardon me while I bask in this moment. Believing in oneself is one thing (and a tough go sometimes). Having the people you love believe in you is a hug of encouragement that comes unconditionally. When the world at large looks over your work and says, Well Done, that is when you know that you are on the right track.
An essay today, perhaps a short story tomorrow, or a future where I write for a living; anything is possible. I’m validated.
Next Week: A Letterpress Vision