Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Writer’s Need For Validation

Every writer needs validation. If I’m wrong, and there’s one somewhere who doesn’t, we’ve never heard of him and he’s never shown his work to anyone. 

I’m not criticising this need. I am a writer, after all, and therefore I, too, need validation. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Writing is a solitary business, and it’s a hard and lonely business to bleed one’s soul all over the page in a room on one’s own. Social media has remedied this to some degree, giving writers the comfort and support of a network of like-minded souls who ‘get it’, but it’s not a complete salve. 

Writing is, at its heart, an act of creation. In that sense it is akin to pregnancy and birth. 

I was once remonstrated for saying my pregnancy was so hellish it seriously made me reconsider wanting more children. Apparently this meant I somehow didn’t appreciate my daughter. I replied no, the only thing worse than having gone through my pregnancy to get a baby would have been going through it to get nothing.

Similarly, how soul-destroying is it to go through the painful process of writing fiction and have nothing at the end of it?

Sure, you always have the completed work, but that’s not enough, is it? We don’t just want to stick it in a drawer and let it gather dust. We want people to know we wrote it, we want them to read it, and most of all, we want them to like it.

Writers who seek traditional publishing want their validation in the form of approval by a publisher – someone thought my work was good enough to invest their money in and take a chance on it! You can’t deny the ego stroke in that. 

Why do these writers need someone else to say their work is good enough? Why can’t they just look at it and know it’s good? I’m one of these writers, and I would hazard a guess it’s because we have all, at some point, looked upon a work of ours that we once thought was fantastic and wanted to burn it so no one else would ever read our shame. ‘Good’ is subjective. We can only assess if a work is good as against our current standard. What was our best work ‘at the time’, will in the future, when we improve, become merely ‘OK’ or even ‘bad’. We crave someone else’s approval because we can’t trust our own judgement. 

There's a quote that says something to the effect of the stupid have boundless self-confidence, while the intelligent or talented are riddled with self-doubt. I suspect that’s because the intelligent or talented know enough to recognise their own shortcomings, and so question themselves constantly. This probably circles back to the four stages of learning, and I suspect it’s why a good writer (of any publishing stripe) so desperately needs validation. 

I’ve heard it said in self-publishing circles that self-published authors don’t need validation; but they do. It doesn’t arrive in the same form as for traditionally published authors, but self-published authors still crave it and need it. Validation in the self-publishing industry comes in the form of book sales, five star reviews, and industry recognition. For the lucky few, it might come in the form of invitations to speak at conferences, or even an offer of a publishing contract. Make no mistake, a publishing contract is the ultimate validation for a self-published author, even if they don’t accept. The author is then in the position to say ‘I’m good enough that you wanted me, but I made it this far on my own, and I don’t need you.’

We’re all the same, at our heart, no matter which way we choose to publish. We have fragile egos, and we spend so much of ourselves in our work we often no longer have the defences necessary to protect ourselves from a cold, harsh reality. We fear rejection, and no publishing path is free of rejection, it’s only the form of rejection that changes. 

We need each other, for support, for encouragement, to keep us going and motivated until we get the validation we need.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!


Ben Ditmars said...

Great post. I really agree with the need for validation.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Thanks Ben. Without validation, what are we? Just an unheard voice in the wilderness.

Jeffery Rowan said...

Funny thing...I was a computer programmer for many years before I fell into the rabbit hole of writing fiction. I learned in programming that one has to find a point in which to stop writing. Not because the program was complete, But because if one were to continue until one was satisfied with the results it would never be complete... perfection can never be reached. I believe this is why deadlines were created. Validation would never occur without them.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Touche, a point I had not considered. It;s almost like we fight against our own need for validation in pursuit of something we can be certain will give us validation. An interesting tension.

Maggie Amada said...

Great post. I think that most people need validation of some form, not just writers. How we define validation, though, differs from person to person.

Brian Watkins said...

Very nice post. Your paragraph on talented people knowing their shortcomings and thus questioning things more than others was particularly poignant for me. Kind of the opposite of the "You don't know what you don't know" saying.

Brian Watkins said...

Good point, and I've also found that past a certain point the writing can become over-edited. Then it no longer seems genuine or as powerful as it began. For that same reason we do have to cut ourselves off, close our eyes and push the "done" button.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Absolutely, I simply chose to confine the scope of this post to writers :-)

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I think it is indeed the opposite of, and the corrollary to, the "You don't know what you don't know" saying. Two sides of the same coin as it were. I'm glad it resonated with you.

Chris Shawbell said...

Wonderful post. I don't believe I need "standard validation." My pathology runs a bit deeper, and perhaps to my detriment as an author.
I need someone—anyone!—to Experience my story, feel the emotion, and understand that all that I am is there on those pages (not with shorts, but novellas and full-length material that I have invested all my soul can suffer to give). It drives me to dig and dig, deeper and deeper, so that I can hope that they can experience that. Then I present my splattered soul on paper, and I pray that this Reader will know how I suffered to create it.

Of course, I would have it no other way.
Thank you for the inspiration to contemplate the things once again.
I've quickly become a big fan of yours.


Erica Lucke Dean said...

I'm so with you on this. We all need some kind of validation. And so rarely get it. Just keep writing. Never give up. And figure out what advice to keep, and what to chuck. Sounds easy, but I know it's not.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Real Time Analytics