On a writing site I frequent a debate has sparked about the validation I feel every writer seeks. Someone asked why do you write and I responded with the word “validation.”
Okay, not every writer wants validation for their work from outside sources. Somebody pointed out Emily Dickinson as an example of a writer who never sought outside validation for her work. Many writers write in a journal they never expect anyone to see. But certainly every writer who puts their writings out there for public consumption is looking for some form of validation.
So who are we seeking validation from? Readers certainly. Editors and publishers definitely. Ourselves? Well, I feel pretty sure if we put our work out there, the self-validation has already been taken care of. I know I have a lot of confidence that I’m a good writer. I also believe I’m a pretty good editor. So I don’t need self-validation, and that’s why I send my work out to be published.
Do I want my work to sell? Yes. I want to make money off my writing, preferably a lot of money. But as you know from my HONEOWP initiative, I don’t really want the money, at least not right now. What I want is to be able to say that a lot of people are reading what I write, and are willing to pay to do it. That’s the ultimate form of validation for a writer, in my opinion.
Does this mean I want to be conformist? Not necessarily. It’s true that what I write is fun, entertaining, and that’s all I want to do at the moment. But I think every artist of every type should seek to stretch the boundaries, to make people see things a little differently. Of course, this is sometimes hard to do. As has been pointed out quite often in the writing community, if you want validation from a reader, you have to get it from an editor/publisher source first. If you’re not writing something an editor/publisher is willing to take a chance on, you’re stuck in the self-publishing world, and while some people are able to make that work, it’s a long, hard road.
But then again, what isn’t in this business? Day after day we writers put ourselves out there in the written word, hoping to get some feedback, whether it be positive or negative, praying we’ve written something that will touch someone in some way. If we’re lucky, we find out we did. If we’re really lucky, we are able to get our words out to a lot of people and we get the ultimate validation, whether it be a lot of money, a bestseller, an article in a large print journal, a short story in Best American Short Stories, or a winning entry in a writing contest.
Good luck to all my fellow writers in their quest for validation, and if you’re a reader, take a minute to give your favorite author a pat on the back. Believe me when I say, even if he or she is a very successful author, they’d love to hear from you.