I've been thinking about satisfaction. Chuck Klosterman wrote a terrific essay on Americans' inability to maintain successful romantic relationships. According to his theory, one that I subscribe to, our search for love is the search for true love, soul mates, and other such ideals that have been built up in our brains to mean a recreation of whatever romantic movies, shows, books we've read, songs we've listened to, etc... put the idea of love into our heads in the first place. Impossible to compete with. Why? Because it's not real. I think Klosterman is on the hunt for a woman who knows both she and he will be perpetually dissatisfied with one another. If she's cool with that, he's down with her. Certainly a new spin on an old topic.
So, satisfaction in love in America is doomed from the start. What about satisfaction for writers? An old adage is you'll never meet a satisfied writer. The writing and revising process make this a moot point, cause all you do is rewrite. But what about what happens after, when the finished product is floating around for all to see? I won't lie... what other people think matters to me. Don't we all? Don't we all run around and do things so that others can tell us what they think about it? Isn't that how we function from day to day? What do you think is probably in the top-two questions asked in this world. It comes right after Where are you. Even though it really doesn't matter at all. Thomas Hobbes said in Leviathan that our value and estimation of ourselves is based on what others deem our value to be. I don't think that's as shallow as it initially sounds. I think that's how it is. But I would take it one step further. I think our value and meaning and identity is based on what others think about us if we say the opinion of those people matters to us. You have control. You qualify those people and their opinions before they can have any effect on how you see yourself. You have to want to be judged by them. And let's face it... we all want the New York Times Book Review, or a writing group, or our mothers, to judge us and our work. It just has to be what we want to hear. That's why sometimes, writers are miserable. We're doomed to keep writing until we hear what we want to hear. Anyone who says otherwise is full of crap. Or a cyborg not of the human race.
It's not all that mature, but it is true. The number one clue for me that tells me I'm attracted to a guy is when something happens and I think, What would he think? What would he do if...? I want to know what he would think, even though that wouldn't change what actually happened at all. In a way, I need that guy's approval because I need to know that he would handle things the same way I would. I love doing this. And I most definitely am not alone.
Same thing goes with my writing. I don't care if Joe Schmo hates what I wrote. Joe Schmo isn't the Book Review, or my mom, or my boyfriend. But I need to know. I need that stamp of approval. Yesterday for Father's Day I made my stepdad a lemon pound cake because he loves lemon pound cake. I am a baker-in-training and have a lot to learn, but I made the cake and was pleased with it. But when he tried some and said, Good job, Marg, it's delicious, I was happier with my efforts. It wasn't just edible anymore; it was stellar. If my mom had told me it was great, that's good, but it doesn't matter as much as it does when a lover of lemon pound cake would eat seconds of the cake you made.
And that is why we writers will never be satisfied.