A fair amount of introspection goes into daily writing. Let’s be honest, what do you know more than yourself? Part of my daily process of gathering ideas is to let my mind wander and try my best to take notes, without any censor or judgment. I think about why I write, why I enjoy it, etc.
A voice jumped into my head asking me if I write for validation. My knee-jerk response was, “No! Of course not.” But, as something is exposed, it’s hard to ignore, so was this question. I thought about why I write. While I enjoy the creative part of building something from nothing, it’s quite possible I do this because, at some level, I feel like it validates my intelligence. This is a little awkward for me because I try to foster a standpoint of humility, and honestly, I know I’m not the smartest guy in most rooms, especially when it comes to my work. I’m in sales, so I’m normally surrounded by people who are smarter than me.
Maybe I’m just not humble
But do I really think that? I’m not so sure anymore. I may have used humility for so long that I’ve hidden any pride, but if I write for validation, that would imply that I think I’m clever. Maybe that’s not the validation I’m looking for. Maybe I’m just looking for acknowledgment that I can write. You don’t think that you’re capable of this level of insecurity until it pops up and shows itself.
Is seeking validation a bad thing? It’s not like this is gluttony or pride. I just want to know I’m doing well, that people like what I’m creating. I don’t think that’s a sin, but I’m honestly not the right guy to be consulting on religious behavior, good or bad. I think we spend a lot of our lives seeking validation in one way or another. Just hanging around with friends is a validation. We want to know that we’re liked, we want to enjoy our lives, and we want to know that doing so is not a bad pursuit. Can the “pursuit of happiness” be considered to be the pursuit of validation? If validation makes you happy, that would fit. There were no qualifiers on that statement from the Founding Fathers.
One thing doesn’t add up, though. If I were seeking validation, I would think that the lack of progress in views and subscribers would bother me. I haven’t really chased an audience as of yet. I’ve written, but haven’t posted but one-third of what I write. I haven’t finished a real landing page yet. I have a weak ask at the end of my articles to subscribe, but I haven’t done much with the 10 people that are on that list to date (I did send my first newsletter recently). So I’m not sure my answer to me writing for validation was right. Can we be wrong about our own behaviors and motivations?
We don’t know ourselves well
Of course, we can. We’re our own worst judge in a lot of cases. We rationalize continually. Rationalization is our chief weapon to hide our own intentions from ourselves. We do something we know we shouldn’t do, then we come up with a vague rationalization to explain the behavior. Usually to ourselves. We repeat that like a mantra, and it becomes our truth. Only it’s not a truth, it’s a lie.
So why would I try to tell myself that I write for validation? Either A) I do, and a part of myself is trying to make sure I’m aware of the self-centered nature of what I’m doing or B) I don’t, but my humble side is trying to make sure I am more humble than is required by sane society. I guess there’s always a C) I do, but I’m just really bad at it. But does it matter that I may be seeking stranger’s approval? I’m not harming anyone. I don’t name names in my stories that derive from life. I change the names to protect the innocent and the guilty. Although, if someone stumbles onto my blog, they will most likely know it’s me by the third or fourth article, definitely if they read the about page.
And I don’t really care, I’m not hiding, I’m just not hanging myself out in public for all to see. That’s because I do think at some level that I suck at this, and if I fail miserably, I can fail in private. I also don’t want the hassle of having to worry about what I wrote conflicting with my work, my home life, my family life, etc. I just want the freedom to say what I’m thinking about, and if that happens to revolve around a certain software company who runs things a bit backward and hires stupid people, I don’t want backlash on that. Good luck figuring out from that description who I’m talking about anyway.
I’m going to put a stake in the sand and say that yes, I definitely write for validation. It’s just not the only reason I write. Since we were young schoolchildren we have looked for validation in our creations. Who doesn’t remember bringing home a painting from school and feeling pride when your mom put it on the refrigerator? That’s what writing is. We create something, release it into the wild, and hope someone acknowledges what we’ve done. I’ve said this before that rarely does a writer’s favorite content get the most attention. I’m always surprised by what gets attention and what does not. It shows how self-centered I am as a person and a writer that I can’t predict what an audience will do. That’s because I rationalize. I have convinced myself that people like X when I really don’t care if they do like X, I just WANT them to like X. I’ve set myself up for this disappointment.
I almost said I’ve set myself up for failure, but I don’t consider this a failure. I consider it an exposure of myself and one that once I know exists, I can try to control and at least put through a test to ensure that what I’m releasing into the wild is for the right reasons. That reason might include self-validation. We all need validation to some extent. I’m not so different on this side of the keyboard. I just happen to think through writing, I sometimes expose things about myself that would never cross my lips. It’s a strange obsession, this. At once therapeutic, yet strangely damaging at the same time. There are days, like today, when you come across things about yourself that you didn’t want to know, and really didn’t want to tell anyone. But I supposed that’s what makes a writer different.
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