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?

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Sometimes Humorous Elements of the Writing Life

Humorous Elements of a Writer's LifeNo one understands a writer like another writer. This fact has led to numerous interesting . . . um . . . experiences with non-writer friends and family. This list (in no particular order) is far from complete. In fact, we invite you to continue adding to the list in the comments. We are writers here. If we can’t laugh with each other, we’re all in missing out, right?

1.  Most writers never quite agree when told a piece is good. All we can see are the flaws and weaknesses. We desire to be told it is good, but don’t fully believe it. And we argue about it.

2.  People avoid your writing space for weeks, but the day you decide to tackle the sex scene, every family member wanders by to look over your shoulder and ask what you’re writing.

3.  Characters have no manners. They start talking during meetings, at dinner, and any other inopportune moment they can find.

4.  Most loved ones never get used to you suddenly staring off into space, unresponsive to their presence. You’d think, as often as it happens, they’d eventually adjust, right?

5.  No one outside of other writers understands the emotional impact of putting a favorite character through the wringer or having a character die. Efforts to explain go nowhere.

6.  Some writers take on characteristics of their main character while in draft. Now that makes for some interesting exchanges with family and friends.

7.  Writers are more likely to develop an ulcer from caffeine consumption than a deadline. We’d just rather blame the deadline for the caffeine.

8.  Friends want to celebrate when we finish a draft. We’d rather hole up with a bottle of wine and mourn.

9.  As soon as you begin writing the middle of a novel, you’ll get half a dozen much more interesting ideas for new stories. It never fails.

10. Nothing induces panic in a writer like words going fallow. We’re afraid the words won’t come back, even when we know they always do.

11. Few of us escape the embarrassment of being caught acting out dialog for both characters. Out loud.

12. No loved one is quite prepared for a writer’s reaction when they are interrupted and pulled out of flow. For that matter, neither are most writers.

13. People in a writer’s life don’t understand why we complain about doing something we profess to love unless they are also a writer.

14. Only a writer can go to the mall and call it observational research.

15. Writers are best paired with non-jealous significant others. More than one writer has muttered the name of the hero or heroine in their sleep.

16. Most writers are clearly not quite normal. Gossip is writing fodder. So are the doings of everyone we know. No one in a writer’s life knows how a bit of them will come out on the page, but it’s a safe bet they’ll eventually find out.


 

Your turn. Add to the list and keep it going.

Is Writing a Choice?

Writer friend: I would never choose to be a writer.

Me: I don’t know what I would choose if I had the choice.

Writer friend: Hard to say… we never got one.

Thus began a time of reflection for me, and a change in my answer. A writer, at the core of it, is someone who needs to put their thoughts into written form. Millions of writers out there will never write a book, but faithfully keep journals. And for many of us, there isn’t a viable choice.

Is Writing a Choice?It’s so much a part of who I am that, if I wasn’t a writer,  I would not be me. What would I decide if presented with a choice to be or not to be a writer? I’m not talking about being an author or a novelist. I’m talking about the fundamental need to put pen to paper—something I need as much as food or water. If I could choose to strip this compulsion away, to be free of both the pleasure and the pain, would I do it?

What kind of me would I be if I wasn’t someone who processed life with ink and paper? What might I offer the world if not my words?

The answer is that I don’t know. It’s like asking who I would be if I’d had different parents or grew up in a different country. It seems impossible to say.

What makes a writer or a dancer or an athlete? What makes an artist or musician? Not talent. There are very talented people out there who have no desire to pursue what they can do well. What is it that makes us spill our emotional and mental guts onto paper time and time again? What is it about us that leaves us a jumbled mess if we don’t drain our minds into written words?

Not all of us care to write for publication. And for those who do, not all of us find writing to be effortless. In fact, many of us struggle with one aspect or another and really need to put forth effort in terms of writing stories. For some, the draft is effortless. For others, revisions are fun. Each of us has our strengths and our weaknesses.

We are writers, but when writing things to share, we also need to care about craft. Would someone who was not an innate writer work so hard at it? Would they find the same levels of joy and satisfaction?

I was born a writer, the same way I was born with lungs and limbs and personality. Who I am and how I developed was certainly influenced by my environment, but not created by it.

The few times I tried not to write, I was utterly miserable, confused, and a jumble of thoughts and emotions.

I am who I am in part because I am a writer. I’ve never known anything different.

As my friend said, we weren’t given a choice.

I can live with that.


 

If you were given the choice to write or not write, which would you choose? How do you think your life would be different?