Do I Write for Validation?

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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Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

7 thoughts on “Do I Write for Validation?

  1. I adore your definition of writing. I’ve seen good ones from the great authors before, but I prefer yours. “We create something, release it into the wild, and hope someone acknowledges what we’ve done.” Exactly. It wounds me that my friends can’t be bothered clicking on my Medium links and reading something I wrote that runs for more than 3 lines. It makes me doubt myself terribly. It also makes me hate my friends a little, and prefer people across the world I’ve never met who say better things about my words.”Maybe I’m just looking for acknowledgment that I can write.” With me, there isn’t a maybe, I know this one is my truth, and I crave it like a newborn craves the milky breast in its mouth. You admitted that you do write for validation. It’s out there now, though with the qualifier that it’s not the only reason. It’s not anyone’s only reason for being a writer. I’ve never been so self deluded to think that it wasn’t a big pat of my art though.

    I used to be a TV presenter and a radio announcer with fans. Only small time, but having that in my twenties left me in no doubt I was a fame whore. Going from that to being a farmer’s wife on an isolated property and a stay at home mum without any serious validation for 7 years, reminded me of how much I crave validation. It’s not the only thing I love about writing; but it’s there. And, yes, my day dreams are full of talking to Oprah about by best seller; which is about as selfish and unrealistic as a girl can get. But, what the hey, I never said I was modest.

    I am proud of my words strung together. I stayed up until midnight last night, writing a Medium post about how I won a generator. All those wasted hours responding to YouTube clips, or Tweets of dancing birds and cutesy puppies honed my 2-3 sentence quips. It gave me enough expertise to win a 25 words or less competition entered by perhaps 100000 others. Deep down in my puny writer’s soul, it didn’t just make me happy for being a winner. I was overjoyed that it validated all those waste of time hours on Facebook, replying on Twitter or any of the 30 or so FB groups I’m in. It justified perfecting the art of making inane comments that might get a love heart or a thumbs up or a clap. So, I’ve revealed my white underbelly in admitting that I am a total slut for validation. But, now I’ll qualify it and say it’s okay. Like you said, since infancy we all need that stuff; to be acknowledged is to have our self esteem soaring. At least we are both biig enough to admit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your comments so much I’ve started a scrapbook. This one goes at the top of the list. I was a musician years ago, and that’s where I got over my fear of public speaking. And you’re right, it’s a craving for that appreciation. It’s a drug, a high, it’s fantastic. Ironically, I think I’d argue with an agent over a book tour, etc., because I’m otherwise such an introvert, just the thought would horrify me.

      Now, I have to go read your Medium article, you know that… Thank you, again, for your overly kind words.

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      1. Your welcome. P.S. I Love You (on Medium of course) has just rejected 2 of what I feel are my best works in 2 days. And yes, I spent most of 2 days writing them. So, I’m feeling a huge need for validation and am quite teary about it. Then I checked my stats to find no new claps and looks but no reads and feel rotten and ready to give up. I won’t, I just posted some sunrise pics and a little quote from Shakespeare instead, with a tiny smidgeon of prose that didn’t take me 2 minutes. I only just got your reply from Sept 4th today. I must have needed it. I’m thinking I am a fame whore! Anywho, it gives me more time to work on my blog. By the way, I don’t follow any blogs…just you mostly. That means, when I actually work out how to publish my stuff about birds I shall put you on the top of my blogroll. If I don’t it simply means I couldn’t suss out how to do it. Should be this week, unless I have a breakdown about nobody reading it. Ever. Then, it might take longer. Thank you, I really loved the article about your forgetful mum in the home. It was heartfelt and beautifully rendered. P.S. I dream about doing the book tour, though I haven’t got any of the books I’ve written out there yet.

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      2. Hang in there, Therese. You’ve seen me post more than once that our favorite works are never the ones that others like. It seems to be God’s cruel joke on the writer. My salsa posts are the most popular just so you know. I can’t wait to see your blog! I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve backed off of Medium for exactly the reason you said. I don’t like the way their stats make me chase them. I still get random claps and such, but my favorite stories on there have a 30% read rate! WTF? This pursuit is such a schizophrenic one. Your kind words carried me through more than once, I hope mine can do the same for you. Keep going! How many great books were rejected dozens of times?

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  2. I think validation has become worse with the social media movement, and the ability to freely present anything to the masses.
    This isn’t a bad thing, or is it?
    Like you said we are our own worst critic, I believe in a way if we just worry about posting what we want and let others figure it out it;s ok, like the TV, you flip through channels till you find something you like, then to hang out and stay for a while, some of the show is good, some of it bad, but over all it’s enough to capture and audience, it never has to be 100%
    Like someone told me, if you build it. they will come, play in your niche, it make a take a bit, but 10 will become 20, then 60, it just takes time, I think the pressure we put on ourselves sometimes it just unrealistic, and we need to have the patience to let it manifest, I mean be realistic, out of all the writer’s out there, what are the percentages of the truly top writers? .0256% ? Maybe?
    As much as I like Science fiction, fantasy, and sappy love stories, and old old fashion real world read with out all the hype like on TV is something that is super refreshing, something that lets me see if there are parallels to my own life and how them may compare, or gives me hope, drive to do a similar adventure, draw out feelings I haven’t discovered, try a new food, you kind of get the point.
    I think if the strain of validation is too strong is will skew what you’re trying to convey to us in a blog/story because it won’t be you it will be what you think we want.
    I realize in sales it’s all about what the consumer needs and/or wants but here, I believe it what you should want, ans we should decide if we like it or not, if we’re open minded enough our palette will grow with you and will pass this on to like minded people who may need a revived new read to look at, not all with drink the cool aid but some will.
    I say this because I’m not trying to any specific group, I’m just here to vomit my thoughts on to the keyboard to get them out, if I get validation from outward views great, I know my mission of why I’m writing is by far different from yours, but this is for me, I’m sure a few great authors said “Fuck It” I’m going to write for me and your either going to like it or not, and BAM then it happened.
    Like golf, how many balls are you going to hit before your on “That Guy’s” level, and for what? so your game is that much better? Will if still be fun to play when your there? Or should you just keep it humble with a good deal of struggle to make you keep coming back for more?
    I mean how many levels are you going to step up to before this isn’t fun anymore? Validation may make you push harder, but if may also take you away from your original goal, and take that satisfaction of completion away from you.

    I hope some of this make a little since, and I may have had not enough coffee before writing this.

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