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Be Careful Where You Seek Validation

Validation for WritersWe all want it, that pat on the back and validation for our writing. Some have a stronger need than others, but writers tend to be insecure that way and need at least some level of support.

There’s nothing wrong with asking “what do you think?” and soliciting feedback, but there are two important factors to consider.

  • What is your purpose in asking for feedback?
  • Who are you asking?

When what you need is validation, choose your sources wisely. If I just need to know I’m doing what I should be doing, I go to my mom, but if I want validation as a writer, I go to my innermost circle of critique partners and tell them clearly I’m feeling vulnerable (which is necessary because at this point we take for granted that we all can write and should be).

Asking for validation can be a trap as well. Use it to build up your confidence until validation is less of a need. Yeah, I know, that’s easier said than done. Because I have a high need to have my insecurities soothed, I had to set limits on what and how I ask. I also get as much mileage as possible from off-the-cuff comments that meet that need. In fact, I write them down and refer to them when I feel insecure, which means I seek validation far less frequently.

What you don’t want to do is put the fragile writer’s ego in the hands of someone who will treat it harshly. Never put it in the hands of a reviewer, for example, or even your writing idol, who may not treat it tenderly.

Conversely, going to family members who already approve of us can leave us feeling dissatisfied. “Of course mom would say that. She loves me.” In addition, a very insecure writer may not choose to believe what they hear. If you find this is true for you, let’s talk and figure out how to boost your self-confidence and trust.

Ideally, every writer has a trusted alpha reader or two who can look over raw material and give both encouragement and helpful feedback. If you don’t have one, I encourage you to be open to finding one. At the very least, choose one of your beta readers to answer one single question. “Does this have potential?” And possibly a follow up: “What did you like about it?” Stop there. Let them validate you and then get back to work.

For the chronically insecure, the best remedy is a body of work. Because every story is different and pulls at us in unique ways, the more we write, the more belief we have develop that it will work out and we’ll get to the end. In other words, the more we do it, the more we believe we can do it.


 Do you have a trusted source of validation? How has your need for validation changed over your writing life?

13 thoughts on “Be Careful Where You Seek Validation

  1. I think this is excellent advice. After participating in a writing workshop years and years ago, I’ve been very particular about whom I show my work to. The family thing hasn’t worked too well for me just because even if they like what I’ve written, the generalities leave me dissatisfied, which I think is unfair to them. About 10 or 12 years ago, I was in a small (4 person) writing group that I really enjoyed and found productive. We met about once or twice a month and read and discussed each other’s work. For me, that’s ideal. I want not just someone to critique my work–though I do want that. I want people that I can have a conversation about writing in general and our writing in particular with. I have met some people, largely through this blog, that I trust. Now i’m just trying to figure out when I have enough stuff that’s polished enough to show them. But the points you make in this post are so important. Thanks.

    • Writer friends and colleagues are such a soothing balm. To be able to talk about writing and share work is priceless, isn’t it?

      Don’t polish the pieces TOO much. 🙂 You might find they are already good to go.

  2. Such wisdom here for us all, Robyn. I’ve been in the same weekly critique group for almost 14 years. Different folks have come and gone, but these people are my ROCK. I trust them with my writing completely. Even though I don’t always like what they say, I know they say it because they care about me (+ they say it in a nice way).

    • that’s a key point for everyone to know. Finding alpha readers who will serve the writing and support you is important. I can take almost any crit from a few people because I know they have the needs of the writing at heart. 🙂

  3. Agreed. Agreed. Agreed.

    I haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable having someone look over my work, but two ‘alpha readers’ come to mind. Let me ping them now 😉

    Indeed, everyone needs an objective cheerleader – preferably someone who GETS YOUR style of writing, meaning an author who writes Sci-Fi may not be the best person to ‘assess’ a romance writer.

    But this is purely my opinion – feel free to correct me! 😀 Since I have never had my work ‘critiqued’ (except once and I cursed that poor guy all week, although I am grateful for him today! 😉 ), you are all much more knowledgeable about WHO would be the ideal ‘alpha reader’

    LOVE ya

    • How did it go pinging the potential alphas? Showing your work for the first time can be so hard, but that part does get easier with practice and with trust in your alpha reader(s). My family will sometimes ask to be put on the beta reader list (moms mostly) but my alphas are my tiny critique group. I trust them. That’s so important.

  4. This is possibly the best piece of advice I’ve ever read. It’s okay to acknowledge that, as a writer, I need to have validation in order to be motivated. I love writing and have no intentions of quitting this early in my writing career, but it’s also nice to hear I’m not wasting my time, every so often. Writing down those words of encouragement will definitely be something I do from now on.

    • I thought I was just needy until I read that Stephen King still hovers nervously when Tabby reads a new draft, and a Scottish writer commented (upon getting his editor’s notes) “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and still don’t know what I”m doing.” It’s important we get validation when we need it. We just need to choose wisely. And I do write down those comments and re-read them.:)

  5. I am not ashamed to admit that I need validation – I think we all do in some capacity. It’s like a barometer for the quality of our offerings. As I write more and more, I am finding my own voice inside validating whether what I write is valuable – to me at least. It’s not the best way to necessarily get published, but it is essential for me to adhere to my guiding principles of authenticity and vulnerability that I continually strive for – thanks for sharing Robyn, I always appreciate your thought-provoking articles 😉

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