Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Validation Reality

Ever had a writer come up to you and ask, "Would you read this and tell me if it's any good?" Ever said it yourself?

When you constantly ask others to validate you, before you give yourself credit, you are handing over a tremendous amount of power over you to those people. You are letting people who have not invested their time, emotion and creative spirit into your work, decide what you should do with it. Even decide whether you should keep going.

Hey, I'm all for critiques. Those who think they can do without them are deceiving themselves and asking for failure. However, the opposite is just as confining, even devastating. Don't think you can't move forward without validation, either.

I've been in critique groups where someone has submitted a chapter, then as soon as he received a couple of feedbacks, he rewrote it . . . exactly as the critiquers suggested. Then two or three critiques later, he rewrote it again. Before long, depression set in as he realized he had no clue about the quality of his work . . . whether he was improving or just spinning in circles.

Validation is a powerful drug. But you have to control it or you become a puppet to feedback. The best writer accepts any suggestions and treats them as such . . . suggestions. The strong writer reads the comments for change, then picks and chooses what makes the work stronger. He doesn't ignore all changes and he doesn't accept all changes. He feels comfortable enough in his own skin to pick and choose, with the results being positive, making the writing better.

What if you don't know what's good and what's bad feedback? Write a lot, read a lot and study a lot. And when someone offers a critique, you step back, analyze your work with and without the change, then move on to the next item in the critique. This self-study makes editing lengthy and trying, as it should be.

In the rest of our world, we often wait for validation as if we needed it to move on. We want the dentist to compliment us on our flossing, our friends to notice the weight loss, our spouses to accept the haircut. We hold our breath for the boss to endorse our work. We seek agents/editors to tell us our story stands out.

Well, not all dentists, friends, spouses, bosses and agents recognize what is best for us. They tell you what they think is best, but they do not have the investment in you that you do. They don't have to live with the decisions.

Do your writing long enough, often enough, well enough and hard enough to improve. Validation is nice to have, but use it to help you, not hold you back. Others aren't going to recognize as well as you are that your work matters. I have news for you. It's the ones who keep moving regardless of the feedback, who make a mark on the world.


Bill said...

A good post today Hope I fully agree. A few months ago I took some online writing workshops and received some great feedback from fellow writers but then was utterly confused when half of them suggested that I do A nad then the other half suggested that I do B, well, I was in a quandry! The instructor basically gave me your answer that these are suggestions.

I would add however that if you have a lot of feedback telling you that the writing needs improvement perhaps we need to take a long pause and take their advice, very often us writers get very defensive right away!

suzanneelizabeths.com said...

I think this is excellent advice. It's very easy to get caught up in the opinion of others and lose your original vision.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Excellent Post. It's about finding a balance. Too many opinions spoil the broth. Keep your mind open but push forward. Cheers..