Friday, July 15, 2011

Validation (and I Don't Mean Parking)

by R.C. Lewis

A few months ago, I wrote about accomplishment vs. prestige. Basically, lots of things are accomplishments, but some naturally have more prestige than others. It's important not to tear down others' accomplishments, but also not to assert that your own are more prestigious than they actually are.

I've been thinking about it some more and came to a related topic: Validation.

As writers, validation can come in many forms. Individually, we put more value in some forms than others. We aim for different targets. Some want the validation of an agent/editor deeming their work worthy. That makes sense. Others feel validation can only come from readers. Cool. Still others seek only to satisfy themselves, and feel that's the validation that counts. More power to 'em.

I won't say any of the above are the right or wrong way to go about things. But which camp you fall into will largely determine the route you take—the traditional get-an-agent path, submitting to small presses, or going it alone.

Deep down, I think we all want to feel the validation that our work isn't crap that's best left in the darkest recesses of our hard drives. Be warned, however, that no matter your course, you may take some hits on the way.

The validation of an agent taking on your work may never happen.

If you go indie, you may be on the receiving end of scathing reviews that feel a lot more like invalidation.

If you claim you only write for yourself and no one else's opinion matters, you may ignore both of the above and not realize that the work needs work. (Of course, if you really mean it that it's just for you, I suppose it doesn't matter. But in such a case, why bother setting it loose in the world?)

We fear a potential truth: Our work (at the moment) may actually be crap.

The bottom line, then, is not to be in such a hurry for validation that we don't present our best chance for getting that stamp of approval. Take your time. Learn the art of the query letter. Find some critique partners who'll give it to you straight.

In the meantime, find validation on a smaller scale. Compliments from a critique partner. An enthusiastic response from a beta reader. (My favorites are responses from teens involving capital letters representing incoherent sounds.) Your first request for a partial or full from an agent.

And keep working.

What's your take on the need for validation? How do you balance that desire with patience to get your best work done first?

11 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post RC - you've captured my feelings really well. It took me forever to get the courage to get crit buddies because I was so scared my hard work = crap. It still takes a lot for me to put my work out there, but I'm getting braver and the crit buddies have helped make my work stronger.

Tonja said...

I think I write because I love to write and love the creative process and getting lost in it like I imagine a writer feels when they paint for hours. But in the end, I think down deep I do want validation. Great article - this is my first time here.

greenwoman said...

This is especially great for those of us who are still in the writing/editing stage of the game, far from submitting to any agents yet but still needing feedback and validation.

Take your time--great advice!

A.M.Supinger said...

It's hard to be patient, but you're right: if writers take the time to put their best foot forward, they'll be less likely to stumble and fall face-first into dejection when critique rolls in.

Thanks for this post :)

Suzanne Payne said...

Being a novice reader and writer, I knew I would have to be patient. I have A LOT to learn still, but like you said after you spend hours and hours of your life working on something, you want to share it with somebody and hope it doesn't suck. Great post girl! :)

R.C. Lewis said...

Jemi, yes, you need to be patient, but also know the right time to be brave and put it out there. That's the moment when you either feel validated or stomped on. If the latter, it takes more patience (and confidence) not to give up.

Tonja, writing because you love the process is awesome. And thanks for joining us!

greenwoman, before you know it, you'll be part of the submitting brigade. Warming up with critique partners is a great way to get ready for the inevitable agent rejections. ;)

A.M, yes! Rejection *will* happen to everyone. Dejection, however, is optional and somewhat preventable.

Suzanne, where's my post on humility? Oh, yeah, here it is. ;) Acknowledging you still have things to learn is definitely key.

Thanks for the comments, ladies!

KellieM said...

RC,

What a timely post. Validation is something everyone craves, but we need to put our best work out there (in other words, earn it!) in order to receive it. Sometimes that takes time and we're not as ready as we think we are *experience talking here*.

Matt Sinclair said...

Like a good parking space, sometimes validation comes from an unexpected source. Even if a writer isn't quite ready, you can receive an inspired rejection. The key is to keep aiming for your target, whatever that is.

Charissa Weaks said...

I soooo agree. I think this is why I am taking my time writing this novel...(I am typically impatient so taking my time is rare). I want to know I have done EVERYTHING in my power to produce the best work I can before sending it out to be ripped apart.

But everyone needs validation. I get it through blogging and critique readers.

I think it's best to remember to take baby steps. To chew slowly lest you get choked ;)

R.C. Lewis said...

Kellie, definitely, it must be earned. And it helps to have critique partners or other people who will help you figure out when you *are* ready.

Matt, excellent point. Validation comes in many flavors from many sources.

Charissa, very true about baby steps. And taking your time isn't always easy, but is often worth it.

Thanks for the comments, guys. :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great post - and good points. I think we all find validation in different ways, but the most important reactions for me are indeed the reader reactions. It's even cooler when the reader is a teen, b/c I know I've hit the mark!