AM I LEGIT YET / the struggle for creative legitimacy

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quote from La La Land:
Mia: Maybe I'm not good enough.
Sebastian: Yes, you are.
Mia: Maybe I'm not. It's like a pipe dream.
Sebastian: This is the dream. It's conflict and it's compromise and it's very, very exciting.

“Am I legit?” is a question I ask myself every time I open a new Google Doc to write something--blog post, book, essay, etc. Am I creatively legitimate? When people read my writing, do they think, Oh, she knows what she’s doing? Or do they just feel a slight sense of confusion, maybe a hint of patronization, and a whole lot of “well, this is really cute”?
I don’t know.

The way I see it, there are two kinds of creative legitimization. The first kind is legitimizing yourself. Do you see your writing/filmmaking/music skills as legitimate, ones with potential that you can develop with a lot of hard work? Do you believe in your dream and your skills, and what God’s calling is for you? It’s the kind of legitimization you give yourself, and the kind that you should at least have a little bit of. I wouldn’t write and publish it on the Internet if I hated it or thought I was terrible and awful at it.

The second kind is other people’s legitimization of your skills, and this is hard to come by and understand/gauge. For example, I can believe in my baseball skills all I want, but nobody else would believe in them, because I’m actually terrible at baseball. Because I’m horrific at it, I would be the last choice in Little League, I wouldn’t make my high school team, and I would most certainly not play in the MLB. And, finally, I would be faced with the reality that I’m terrible at baseball and I’m never going to get anywhere by playing it.

It’s kind of like the same thing with everyone’s creative pursuits. Filmmaking, writing, making music, drawing--you have to believe in yourself, but in order to get anywhere, you also have to catch other people’s attention to gain opportunities. Other people have to legitimize you for who you are, and in order for them to do that, you have to prove yourself worthy by developing your skills and producing things that are actually good.

And of course, it’s never a good thing to be obsessed with what other people think of you. It’s also never a good thing to be obsessed with yourself, and to disregard everyone else’s opinions and critiques. Because although the arts are creative, and there’s a lot of room for improv and different ideas, there are skills to be acquired and rules to be followed. That’s a fact.

So, in a sense, it’s a balance. You have to know which voices to listen to and which ones to block. Sometimes that requires you to shut off your own voice (which is prone to be both self-degrading and self-obsessed, sometimes at the same time) and other people’s voices (which can give helpful criticism, unhelpful criticism, constructive praise, or sugary-sweet praise). It’s all about knowing when to shut off which, and being self-aware enough to do so.

Do you feel legitimized, both by yourself and by those around you? Do you mainly base your own legitimacy on how other people view you, do you base it off how you view yourself, or is it a mixture of both?


  1. This was such a good post. You're so good at putting these sort of things into words. I struggle with this too when I write, but I know I'd like to be a "legit" writer someday x)

  2. I base my legitimacy based on both myself and others, actually. I think I can write more than the average writer can. So many compliments and awards are thrown at me about my writing everyday, but in the end, I'm still unsure of how my writing my compare to someone else with a similar background to mine living on the other side of the country.

    I feel like this is difficult to distinguish whether you're good if you yourself are looking for validation, because it's not easily something that can be measured like grades. You have an A in the class? Good. You got published? Great if it's successful. But when you're in that middle ground fending yourself and unsure of how to progress since what you can do is limited, it really all comes down to how you hold up yourself.

    If you're looking for opportunites to showcase your writing and compete, something along that level (I don't know what the editing equivalent is) I do think that you're somewhat noteable than most not because it's a competiton which can help seek validation. Rather, there's the sense of vunerablity involved and even if you don't win or just get an honorable mention, you're getting feedback and you're wanting to get better. I hope that kind of made sense what I was trying to get at...

    xoxo Morning

    1. dude, i totally agree. that's part of the reason why i have this blog: i want to practice my writing on a consistent basis to improve its quality. i totally feel you.

  3. YEs, I've had very similar thoughts as these before, maybe even journaled about it, I'm not sure. I totally agree with what you said!

  4. With so many other creative people around me, I wonder about this a lot. But admittedly, I worry more about being "original" than legit.

    1. SO TRUE. it's really hard trying to be one's own person when there's such a blend of distinctive personalities around you. in one sense, i think we're all products of the people with whom we surround ourselves.

  5. It's such a hard balance, knowing who to listen to. I'm always wondering if I'm legit or not. I'm so hard on myself, that I never really think that I am. But then I wonder if I'm just being TOO hard on myself. Ugh, I still haven't figured out the balance yet. Maybe soon.

    This was so well done, Rachel. <3

    1. gracias, grace anne!! and i completely understand your struggle. the hardest part is figuring out who to listen to.

  6. I have been struggling with this so much recently. The older I get the more pressure gets put on me to make something of myself.


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