I think our tendency to wait for permission goes back to early childhood. At one time, as you’ll recall, we even needed a “pass” to go down the hall to use the bathroom. As we get older, I believe that this general worldview lingers and we look to authority figures to give us license to make our work and express who we are.
This is too bad, really. Because the older we get the more we realize that most of the authority figures in our lives are clueless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat across from someone in their big office and the only thing I could think was, “Oh, my. The emperor has no clothes.”
Well, in kids’ TV, many of the emperors have no clothes. Some of the companies out there are just big lost puppies. There are a variety of ways we can feel about this. We can be angry: “How come this rather unusual person gets to decide my fate?” We can be sad: “It’s so disappointing that my work is being judged by someone who knows less than I do.” Or we can just shrug it off and say: “I guess I’m just not their cup of tea.” That, I believe, is the best approach.
Because, the fact is, we shouldn’t be putting so much stake in an emperor’s opinion anyway. What the emperor tells us is only as important as we make it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Similarly, no one can undermine your creative efforts and ambitions without your consent. They can slow you down by not supporting you but that’s about it.
Personally, I am through with emperors. I don’t want to have one and I certainly don’t want to become one.
But learning to live without emperors can be hard. They give us a sense of order in the world, a sense of place, and that feels good. For a while. But, when the emperors we look up to are finally revealed as being human, this can leave us feeling betrayed, unmoored, angry. Like Judas.
But then, gradually, these feelings give way to sadness. Because there’s no one to look up to anymore. No network. No parent. No one. We find ourselves suddenly on our own. Which is hard. Which is necessary. Which is growing up.
But this is when our real work can begin. This is when we begin to give ourselves the permission to make our work. No more waiting for a commission or some grant money or for someone else to validate our shows, our films or our songs. Now only we can pull the trigger. Only we can say, “go.”
Damn the torpedoes. Damn the emperors. I’m walking here.
In the end, I think all we really want, any of us, is just to say a few small things. And to have those things be heard.