Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: You Don't Need Validation

Disclaimer: This post is liable to be controversial. Please note that even though I fully intend to self publish, this post is not meant to be a self publishing vs. traditional publishing post. It is not meant to advocate one path over the other. 

As I have wandered and explored the blogosphere for these many months there has always been a certain trend among writers that disturbed me. This is the desperate need for validation.

Aspiring writers, as a general group, tend to be obsessed with getting the approval and acceptance of all the right people in traditional publishing. Writers rewrite, reshape, and polish themselves and their work over and over and over again just to get a nod from certain people in the industry. They query and submit and grovel before these literary behemoths. They wait and wait and wait and then are rejected and then do it all over again as many time as it takes. "Just one acceptance and I'm in," they tell themselves.

Why do they do it?

They need acceptance and they need validation from the system before they can consider themselves real writers.

I came across a blog post yesterday which shouldn't really have astounded me and yet it did. It was entitled "Dear Agent". I've seen many such "dear agent" posts but this one was the most piteously sad. You see, the bulk of the post was little more than a video of the song "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick and the words "This about sums it up". The main verse of the song, of course, goes like this:

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I'd love you to love me.
I'm beggin' you to beg me.

The singer also goes through a list of the things he's willing to do to have his feelings reciprocated:

I'll shine up my old brown shoes.
I'll put on a brand new shirt
I'll get home early from work
if you say that you love me.

I say the post was piteously sad, even though the author almost certainly meant it at least partially in jest, because even if you try to laugh it off, this is exactly how many, many aspiring authors approach traditional publishing.

Do you see the problem? I do. Here it is: publishing is an international business and authors are approaching it like a romantic relationship. They are approaching it from an emotionally needy position. They want to be wanted. They need to be needed. They'd love to be loved. They'll do just about anything to get that validation.

But today is the Insecure Writer's Support Group and I am here to tell you that you don't need their stinking validation.

Now, I am NOT saying that you shouldn't traditionally publish. I'm saying, don't go into it from an emotionally needy position. I'm saying, don't treat publishing like a relationship. I'm saying, don't grovel or rewrite yourself just to get a publishing deal. It's not worth that.

Validation is something that ultimately, if you persevere, you will get from your readers. From their reviews and their letters of thanks. Don't look for it from people who only care about the saleability of your writing. Look for it from the people who buy your writing just for the joy they find reading it.

Right now it may seem like you'll never get to that place. And perhaps, if you focus on trying to please and impress the industry instead of just selling books in a business-like manner, you won't. But if you stop looking for your validation from them and become more secure in your role as a supplier of a product that there is an increasing demand for, you can succeed and achieve great things.

Believe in yourself.

I realize that this is a somewhat hard post to swallow so here is some validation that is good for everyone.


  1. *Applause*! Excellent post and totally true. I also felt the need to be validated by an agent or publisher. When none was forthcoming, I self-published in June 2010. Best thing I ever did. That's not to say that going traditional would have been a bad thing, but I'll never know because I wasn't given the chance. I now feel that I have a better chance of being noticed by publishers than I would have if I had continued querying--the only thing is now I'd have a choice as to whether I'd even want to go the traditional route.

  2. I have the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack, so I was singing along with you. : )
    Validation feels good, but it shouldn't be why we write.

  3. if you're relying on others for your worth, you'll never feel worthy!
    I've tried to remember the true source of my worth, although sometimes even I struggle.
    Excellent post today, Sarah. I hope everyone reads it.

  4. This is a great post. I definitely agree with the others, especially with E.R. when she says "validation feels good but it shouldn't be why we write."

  5. Thanks for this! I want validation, but know I really don't need it. This is a great post!

  6. Wonderful post. I still sometimes seek that validation even though, logically, I know only I can give it to myself.

  7. First of all, I love me some Cheap Trick. Secondly, while I agree with what you are saying about needing their validation (an important distinction) I do believe that I need validation. From myself. And that's what I work on every day, be it on my own in the bitter watches of the night, or in my writer's group or with the online community. I need to be able to validate myself. Damn it's hard.

  8. No one is going to actually listen to what you're saying here and it's not going to stop them from seeking validation. However, I'm with you on this. I agree with everything you've said.

  9. I think any time someone seeks validation from others it will end with tears and heart ache. Know who you are, what you want, and how to get it.
    Great post. I'm following you from IWSG.

  10. Great post!
    Just have to say that I don't say that very often. Maybe (maybe) three times all year. No other comment than that. Just a great post.
    (and I self-published -because- I'm not interested in playing the games of the publishing world and don't need them to validate my writing)

  11. Fantastic post. It's a good reminder for self confidence, patience, and peace within.

  12. I'm so glad this post was a positive read for everyone. :) Thank you all for stopping by.

  13. I really enjoyed this post, Sarah. I think many people (myself included) get wrapped up in the emotional side of the industry where we take rejections as something personal or something more than "Just not good enough. Yet." But you're right--it's a business. In order to succeed in this business, you have to create something good enough that others will want it. It's not personal; it's business.

  14. I didn't see this as controversial at all. It's a valid point, and one it's a good idea to remember (and sometimes hard to remember).

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse gearing up for the upcoming 2012 A to Z Challenge!

  15. TL, it's so easy to get caught up in the emotional side because artists tend to be emotional people and our works are important to us. But once you start submitting your book for publication you really need to put the emotions aside and be professional about it. It's a business.

    Shannon, there are a lot of people out there who get really upset if you appear to criticize traditional publishing at all. They're very sensitive about it. I've no idea if anyone like that reads my blog, but better safe than sorry.

  16. Thank you! I need messages like this to plaster all over my walls and reread when I keep hearing "you suck" in my head...

  17. excellent post, and true, inspiring insights. We have to be able to trust ourselves, find our own validation. But it's hard, and this is a tough business. Still, we can support each other. Great thoughts, Sarah! :o) <3

  18. Very true, and you quoted Cheap Trick - woo hoo! :)

    I find myself wanting validation more from readers or my characters (yeah...I know...they're not real). But if I feel like I've written the very best story I can from both of those perspectives, that's a highlight for me!

    I always remember the quote from Cool Runnings. "If you're not enough without the gold medal (publishing contract), you'll never be enough with it."

  19. You know what, I think you're right. Mostly. I don't know :) I do think you're right, but I'm one of those sad pathetic people who would love traditional publishing validation. But then again, I don't feel like I need it, and I'm much, much more concerned with creating a good book that readers can relate too. Great and thought provoking post! And I adore that video.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  20. Hi, I found you through IWSG.

    I'm hoping to get published the traditional way, ut for me it's not a validation thing. It's a technical and promotional thing - I'd be rubbish at both and if I self published I'd have to do all that for myself. I know I'd still have to promote my work with a traditional publisher, but I imagine I'd get a bit of help and support.

  21. Ah, what a conundrum. I agree with you, but there's a ton of people out there yet to be convinced.


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