3 Reasons You Should Stop Seeking Validation

As human beings, we have a deep desire to be accepted. We do things to appease others, to make ourselves look better, to not look stupid.

What happens when we take that attitude into our writing? What happens when we deny our inner muse in order to make others happy? In my experience… bad things happen.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

1. There’s Enough Love To Go Around

When I started writing, I desperately wanted my family to come along for the ride. I offered free copies of my first book, I asked them what they thought, I wanted them involved.

Well, after doing that for a while, it turned out that my two biggest fans (in my family), and the only ones who’ve read anything I’ve done are my wife and my mom.

That sucked at first. I’m the oldest of four brothers, and I wanted my siblings to see the blood, sweat and tears I’d thrown into my work. They were part of the story! The problem was, they were not my target audience. They read mostly non-fiction, not military thrillers.

When I stopped looking to them for validation, and started seeking an audience in the real world, a magic thing happened: I started finding new readers.

If your work is good enough, and you know how to get it in front of your target market, your writing will speak for itself. Stop trying to push your art on people who don’t want to be part of your tribe. Instead, focus on your craft and tap into the rest of the world.

2. It Makes You Look Desperate

If you’re begging people to read your work, how do you think that makes you look? Instead of begging, get involved in communities like this one at The Write Practice. Share your love of writing with fellow writers. Learn from each other. Find out how Jane Smith grew her readership. Learn how John Doe went from two sales per month to 2,000.

All I’m saying is that instead of seeking a pat on the back, get to work. Learn how to write more good…um, I mean better. Learn how to market. Learn how to grow as a writer.

3. It Won’t Make You A Better Writer

The second I focused on my writing instead of what other people thought, my work improved, I started selling more books, the path became clear.

If you’re looking for others to tell you whether you’re good or not (your editor aside), maybe you should try something a little more objective than writing. Ten people can read the same poem and come up with ten different critiques. That’s the beauty of writing, it means something different to everyone. Just because one person says you’re good doesn’t mean the next one will.

It’s Okay To Care

I’m not one of those people who think you can flip a switch and ignore criticism. I know it hurts. I’m human just like you. I like pats on the back. I like hugs.

What I am saying is that you should trust in yourself and in your craft. If you work hard, improve your writing and get it out into the world with a bold open heart, what else can you do?

Why do you seek validation?

PRACTICE

For the next fifteen minutes, describe the scene when a new reader starts the book you wrote and is instantly sucked in, eyes glued, unable to stop reading.

Post your practice in the comments section below and please provide feedback for your peers.

About Carlos Cooper

Carlos is author of the Corps Justice novels. Get the box set of Books 1-3 for FREE HERE.

  • Renia Carsillo

    Wow did I need this one today! I took a major ego blow as a writer yesterday and this helps me put it in perspective and keep plugging on. Thank you!

    • I’m glad it helped, Renia. Just keeping writing 🙂

  • Stacey smiled. The smell of a fresh new book with crisp white pages and a perfect, slick, uncreased cover always reminded her of Christmas or birthdays. A special gift: brand new and full of unexplored treasure.

    She ran her finger down the slender chocolate brown spine and slowly traced over the gold filigree writing, collected her steaming cup of tea off of the breakfast bar and headed toward the bay window in the lounge. The mid morning sun streamed in, danced with particles of dust and kissed the plum velvet throw rugs tossed over the old leather chesterfield. She ignored the ringing telephone and clutched the new book closer to her chest. This was her time.

    Stacey sighed as she gently sat down and swung her legs up along the length of the dark green bay window cushion, caressed the fine firm cover of the book and slowly turned the page,feeling the soft nap of paper beneath her finger tips. Chapter One.

    She took a small delicate sip from her cup. Still to hot. She set it to rest on the window sill, watching the buttery rays diffuse through the curls of steam. Page One.

    Stacey nudged her rimless reading glasses a little further up her nose and smiled. The small chocolate brown book rested on her raised left thigh.

    ‘We are not alone.’ Paragraph One.

    Stacey slunk a little deeper in to the ripple of green brocade, flicked a strand of freshly washed and still damp hair back across her shoulder. Paragraph Two.

    She bit her lip, scanned left to right, turned the page. Stacey looked up, out into the garden where the sun was yawning its way lighter in the morning sky. She sunk a little deeper into the sea of green. She laughed out loud. Then gasped. Stacey turned the page. Her eyes darted across the page, searching for meaning. Stacey slowly pulled the far corner of the coming page, she had to get there. She turned again. Just one more chapter she thought.

    “This is delightful.” Stacey looked to the wall in front of her, stretched out her legs and wiggled her toes. “Just a little more,” she said to herself as she bent her knees, drew her thighs up again and using her finger re-found her place. “Oh, no way!” She said out loud, turned the page, sucked in her breath, furrowed her brow and continued. Chapter Five.

    The sun arced beyond its midday peak. The lonely cup of tea, with spent curls of steam, started to trace a shadow on the white painted sill. Stacey puffed up the small oblong cushion across her back, her neck was getting stiff, she ignored it and slid deeper in …. Chapter Ten.

    • It appears that my last comment was deleted. I’m not sure why, and I’m sorry if I said something bad. I had hoped my feedback was constructive!

      I’ll reiterate what I said before: this is really a very lovely piece. I’d like to know more about Stacey though, and I think your powers of description can be of great use there. I also thought that the hot cup of tea that goes cool was a nice touch.

      • Hi Omar
        Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate your time and the suggestions you made.

        I have no idea about the’deleted’ comment. So I can’t help you there.
        Kind Regards

        • Maybe Disqus was playing with the post. Haha, it happens 🙂

    • One more page. One more chapter. Deeper and deeper 🙂
      I could feel it. Haven’t we all been there? I have.
      Thanks for sharing, Dawn!

    • Sandra

      This is a very sensual sort of reading the book, where she is feeling and getting immersed with the five senses.

    • Christy

      “A special gift: brand new and full of unexplored treasure.” What a great description of reading a new story. I loved the description of how she got further and further into the book. 🙂

    • Eliese

      Hmm, nice crisp white pages 😛 I guess we both like that new book feel. I liked the descriptions. Especially the ‘with spent curls of steam’ line, and wiggling toes

  • “Shut up!” she hissed, and I flinched. I’d been hovering around her chair pelting questions at her for about ten minutes. Whenever she would laugh, I’d try to figure out what she was laughing at. Was it an intentional joke? Or was something too corny? When she’d gasped, I’d asked, “Oh, are you at the part where she got the letter?”

    I was being a nuisance, and I knew it. I sulked back to my chair across from her and scooped up my copy of Don Quixote. The smell of coffee still lingered in the air and I glanced at my cup. Empty. I put the book back down and walked into the kitchen for a refill. I could hear her giggle and flip pages. The sound of moving paper made me think of sharpening knives.

    I weighed the beans, placing them carefully on the scale and lost myself to the process of a single cup of coffee. The hand grinding, the boiling water, the weight of the kettle in my hand as I carefully poured over the filter. All of these things were like a moving meditation and as I got deeper into the process, I soon forgot that my story was being read at all. It was just me and the coffee.

    As the final droplets of coffee beaded at the bottom of the filter and fell into the mug, I felt a pair of hands wrap around my waist. I straightened and looked over my shoulder as she moved to my side.

    “It’s good!” she said.
    “Yeah?”
    “Yep.”
    “It’s not, like… too…”
    “It’s good, baby. Like it always is. So put it out there.”

    I looked down at the coffee, my shimmer silhouette reflecting back at me, and I nodded.
    “Okay,” I said.

    • Awesome. Love this: “It’s not, like… too…”
      “It’s good, baby. Like it always is. So put it out there.”
      Thanks for sharing, Omar!

    • Joanne Pearson Fleck

      I totally love your description of the turning of pages reminding you of ‘sharpening knives’! That sound is vivid (and chilling) much the same as the anticipation of the reader’s critique!

      • Haha exactly what I had in mind 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

    • Sandra

      the analogy of the turning a paper being like the sharpening of knives is a good analogy but seems out of place to me.
      wear he is being a nuisance and then he sulks are my favorite parts because of the conflict.

    • Good work. I enjoyed how you weaved the MC’s inner conflict, fear, needing to know or please into the scene and his inner resolve being the meditation of making a single cup of coffee.

      The FMC felt periphery, like a soft external wrap to his inner story. (I hope that makes sense.)
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Christy

      I loved the part where he was meditating by making coffee. Great description.

    • Young_Cougar

      Awesome, I totally got sucked into the characters mindset. P.S – (If the writer is you) I’s good to know I’m not the only one who thinks making coffee/tea is calming. Nicely done.

    • Annie4242

      Fantastic coffee description. I could smell it brewing!

  • Joanne Pearson Fleck

    There I am standing in the bookstore where my first novel is
    being sold. I act as a casual bookstore
    customer, but am actually tentatively eyeing the stand where my book has been
    put on display for sale. Many people
    walk by and glance at my book. My heart
    flutters with each passerby. The next
    time I look towards the display, there stands a teenaged girl holding my book
    and actually reading the inside cover.
    My heart skips a beat! This is my
    target audience and she seems interested in my book! Watching her, I can barely breathe as she
    flips the title page to begin reading my book!
    Trying not to literally stare at her, I walk over to the opposite side
    of the display pretending to be interested in a different book. The girl doesn’t even notice me. Her eyes are glued to the written page before
    her. I am becoming weak in the knees as
    I watch for any sign of emotion from my written words. As she finishes the first chapter, her eyes look
    moist. She blinks several times and
    looks up from the book to view her surroundings. My heart swells with pride! My book is having the impact on my target
    audience that I had hoped to make. The
    upcoming book signing day is already a success in my mind. I am incredibly elated!

    • I like the journal-like quality of this. The self-consciousness of the writer being assauged by this stranger’s interest is touching.

      Some feedback: maybe add some descriptive elements to the teenager? Bring her to life a bit 🙂

    • Eliese

      It was a wonderful idea to make the author watching the reader. I can see the story very well. Yay for happy endings. 🙂

  • nancy

    You are so right. I keep asking my husband to comment on my political thriller. He is a brilliant writer, but only reads nonfiction. I live for his approval (and his editing is free), but every time his shoulders drop, I want to quit. And every time he gives me feedback, it’s as if he wants to turn my writing into a memo or report. So now I have quit–asking for his advice. I have found others in my target market who guide me down my own path.

    • It’s the right thing to do, Nancy. Great job 🙂

  • 1GreekAmericanWoman1

    Thanks for an honest and smart post. I have believed this for awhile now, but you wrote it well.

  • Chloee

    I droped to my knees as I watched the sword slipped through his chest. The earth seems to stop the sun suddenly stops and hides behind the clouds causing shadows to loom over me. The wind howls with fury the rainvfalls down splashing against me. Tears slipped down my face as I watched him crumble to the ground. I rushed to him holding his head in my lap. “Please… ”

    I thought back on to the start of the adventure. I was just a girl living a ordinary life then he came and made it a adventure. He and I were looking for his family secret. We climbed through dangerous moutins surviving the falling rocks and wind. Trekking across the deep forest facing wild animals and the local tribes who are not know to strangers. Sailing rivers of dangerous rapids with waterfalls. We survived death and starvation. We kept going no matter the cost. Even when we were just hanging on a rope over a gaping canyon. We faced the storm we had to keep going.

    The danger was like a flame it just kept growing. He couldn’t die after all we’ve been through. There’s no way. I snapped back to reality. “Please… Please you have to hold on till the nexts chapter.” I said as I turned the page as I snuggled into the couch taking a sip of coco.

    • Eliese

      Very emotional writing. Nice job. I

  • Young_Cougar

    Dude, (Since I know your a guy, I’m gonna go ahead and call you Dude) I feel you! I did the same thing in the beginning and just like you said, no one really gave a damn. Not even my dad. Which just sucked. It took a while but I moved on and started to share in a healthy way.

    “Jenny!” Mom shouted from the kitchen. “We’re home!” Sighing, I stood. Grumbling about not wanting to get up, I slipped off my headphones and let them drop on the desktop with a bang. I winced. I hope they’re not damaged; otherwise, I’m going to have static interrupting with my headphones for the rest of the month. I hate being broke. Maybe it’s about time I started looking for a job again…

    “Yea, Mom?” I watch as mom stacks a bunch of cereal boxes on the kitchen counter. She looks whipped. Dang it! I should have gone with her to help with the grocery! She probably didn’t get any sleep last night either.

    “Let me help you,” I gently push her aside and start taking the milk cartons out of their bags and putting them in their respective place in the fridge.

    “Thank you, baby,” Mom kisses me on the cheeks while she walks past. “Where are the kids?”

    “Backyard,” I reply, but it wasn’t really necessary. Jenny was already pushing open the see through door leading to the back-yard to the kitchen.

    “Mama!” I smile and return to my job. Jenny was Mom’s baby and it would be a while before anyone could untangle her willow-like body from around mom.

    “Gary?”

    “Hmm?” I raise my head.

    Mom grins, “After you put those away, go take a peek at the bag in the living room.”

    “What is it?” I ask suspiciously.

    Mom grinned cheekily, while Jenny traced her cheek with her hands, “It’s a surprise.”

    It was a book. I turn the book this way and that trying to decide weather to read it or not. The book cover was ok, but not really “catchy.” And the intro on the back wasn’t any help either. All it talked about was how good the book was and some reviews, plus something about a dragon.

    I hated dragons. They were so cliche! I mean, if your going to write fantasy, then the least you can do was come up with something original. I think about just tossing it on my bed and getting back to updating my blog…but I can’t. I know, I just know, that the first thing Mom’s going to ask at dinner is how was the book. I could always lie, and then I’d feel guilt for the rest of the day. Mom was making Pasta, and I wanted to be able to enjoy my pasta, guilt free.

    Huffing and puffing; I open the book and start reading. Putting extreme effort to move from one word to one word.

    ….She’s A baby? A baby character?

    … Oh, my god! Don’t throw her off the cliff! What kind of a sicko does that! That dude is so going to die.

    … Oh, here come glaffin! You done, son!

    …..Did…did she just….she kicked him!

    “GARY! Dinner!”

    I frowned, why now? “One more chapter, Mom!” I reply, trying to read one more sentence.

    “You’ve been saying that for the past 20 minutes!” Mom shouts back. “Done here, now!”

    “Ohh, why, why me!” grumbling, I sit my book off to the side and hurry down the stairs. The faster I finish my dinner the sooner I can return to the book. Wait…I have Homework! Oh, god, No!

    (This is my first time writing First-person as well….)

    • TheCody

      I enjoyed reading this. Gary has that lazy but well-meaning attitude of a typical teenager, so I think you captured him well. And I liked his motivation for reading 🙂

      If I had any feedback, it would be about that first paragraph. It may just be me, but it seemed a little disjointed, and I didn’t quite see how it fit into the rest.

      • Young_Cougar

        Well, I thought it gave a sort of let the reader know about Gary’s personality a little. Just some insight.

    • Nice. The Reluctant Reader. That could be a good novel. Book to book. Dismay turning to joy. Thanks for sharing!

  • TheCody

    My head’s bent over the screen, ear resting in my hand, elbow resting on my desk. My eyes are moving rhythmically across the page, then down. Across, then down. It’s like a dance, and my body relaxes and practically sways with the beat of reading.

    The wall clock starts bonging. I’m so entrenched in the book, I chirp in surprise and fly up in my chair. Shaking my head to bring me back to reality, I check the time.

    8:00.

    It’s eight freaking o’clock!

    Panting from excitement, I look back at the current page on my screen.

    I’d been reading for three whole minutes without realizing it!

    I grin and scan over the words I’d already read a thousand times, this time nodding in agreement with myself. For the first time, since I’d begun writing, I got lost in my own words. They were my words on the screen, my idea I’ve been intimately familiar with for months. And, for three minutes, I was swept away by those words.

    Laughing, I pump a fist in the air and settle back into my chair. Up to that point, I’d never read more than a sentence without frowning, rolling my eyes, or even making fake vomit noises. I worried I’d never reach this point (and wondered if any writer did). But it happened. For three minutes.

    Letting out a deep exhale, I focus back on the screen. The next sentence sucks, but I don’t care. My body practically tingles in anticipation of that next three minute stint.

    • Nice twist using the writer. You maybe?

      “Up to that point, I’d never read more than a sentence without frowning, rolling my eyes, or even making fake vomit noises.” Been there 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, TC

    • Young_Cougar

      Been there, and never forgotten the experience. (Grins very very largely) I love when I get lost in my own words! And that’s when I know that others might like it as well, and gather the courage to share. Enough about me.
      I loved this. (I thought that needed re-saying) The first sentence seems to be too stretched out. maybe if you put each action into it’s own sentence it would be better? And give your words a tempo as well.

      • TheCody

        Thanks so much! Quick question: When you mention giving my words a tempo, are you referring just to breaking out that first sentence (thereby giving the three new sentences a tempo)? If so, I totally get it, thanks! If you’re referring to the whole piece, can you clarify?

        • Young_Cougar

          You got the right Idea. I mean the first sentence. 🙂

    • Well done. A great sense of excitement, scanning and devouring the words, realising your activity, celebrating your achievement.

      I can resonate with the sense of excitement.

    • Christy

      This was excellent at capturing many of the feelings and thoughts writers share. “I got lost in my own words.” That is very powerful! Love it!

  • Christy

    “But I didn’t do it.”

    “Yes you did.”

    “No. I didn’t”

    “Yes you did.”

    Rebecca watched as her kids argued back and forth, whining at one another. She felt like she was watching a competitive tennis match. Pushing the air in front of her away, she raised her voice. “This behavior has got to stop!” She took each of them by the arm and walked them over to the couch. “Now, you sit here.” Her daughter flopped down on the couch. “And you sit here.” Her son flopped down on the couch. They were half a cushion apart from one another. Both kids looked at her as if she were an alien or some cosmic being about to explode.

    “But I didn’t do it, Mom.” Her son pleaded with his big blue eyes.

    “I don’t care who did what. You two need to work this out.”

    She grabbed the book she’d bought earlier that day and turned to walk to the bedroom.
    “I want this fixed before I come back out after I read the first chapter. You don’t move until then. I will come back out after I am done.”

    She walked away and closed herself inside her room. Walking over to the large window she sat down and opened her book. She had been browsing the shelves when the cover of the book caught her eye. She had picked it up and read the back cover. Although It wasn’t something she would typically choose, it was intriguing her enough she was willing to give it a try.

    She gasped as she read the first paragraph. Someone already dead in the first paragraph? What? She couldn’t believe it.

    The buzzing of the neighbors cutting a tree down, her kids arguing, and her husband clanking dishes in the kitchen all disappeared as she was sucked in to her book. She read as fast as her eyes would allow, flipping the pages like hotcakes.

    A knock at the door startled her. “What is it?”

    “Mom? I know you said to wait for you to be done with your first chapter. But it’s been forty-five minutes and you hadn’t come out. Dad let us both get up. We resolved our issues.”

    Rebecca blinked and shook her head. Had she really been here that long? She flipped back through the pages she’d read. Already she had breezed through a third of the book.

    “Good book?” Her daughter smiled as she leaned on the doorway.

    “Yeah.”

    She and her daughter shared a mutual like for reading. Many nights you could find the two of them sitting on the couch together, each immersed in their own book.

    “I’ll be down in a little bit.”

    “OK.”

    Her daughter closed the door quietly. Rebecca knew she wouldn’t be back down for a while. Good thing it was Friday night.

    • Ha! That is too funny. Having three kids, I get it 🙂 “Mom? I know you said to wait for you to be done with your first
      chapter. But it’s been forty-five minutes and you hadn’t come out. Dad
      let us both get up. We resolved our issues.”

      Thanks for sharing, Christy!

      • Christy

        Thanks for the feedback! I really needed to read your article today. 🙂

    • Young_Cougar

      Very nice. I loved the the way your words easily expressed the character’s feeling without using too much words. Hmmm, you know when you wrote “…she was sucked into the book” could you have expressed that through action rather than just stating it? I thought just stating it was a bit awkward.

    • Eliese

      Awesome. I loved how you captured the way a good book can make you forget about the world and time.

  • Eliese

    The crips off white pages of the book contain a world that will take me away from my sad reality of living in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, with nothing exciting to do except feed the cows. This book called to me. It was something about the title and the blurb on the back cover that made me want to sit down and read in the middle of the large bookseller on my trip to the city with my parents. I avoided temptation until now.

    I am curled up on my pink blanketed twin size bed with the novel placed on a pillow, and a bag of my favorite salty snack within reaching distance. I crunch the chip, and devour the first sentence. It is simple, but enticing. I want to know more already. Soon the first page is finished; then the next chapter. I can’t stop.

    The nights sky blankets the earth, and yet I still read. My eyes grow heavy with needed sleep, but I ignore their call. I must know what happens.

    A knock is quickly followed by the creaking noise of my door opening. My thin, short mother peeks in.

    “Lights out. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow.”

    “Yes Mom.”

    “Good night.” She flicks off my light and closes the door.

    She is right. There is a lot hard work that needs to be done the next day, and I have to wake up even before the sun does. I should listen to her. I don’t.

    Instead, by the light of my phone, I read.

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  • I can definitely relate to the feeling of wanting validation. When I get caught in this type of thinking I have to remember that it doesn’t bring me closer to the person I want to be or to what I want to create in the world. Your thoughts are helpful and inspiring. Thank you!

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  • Sarah watched as a fairly heavy woman and four children walked towards her and sat in the next booth behind her husband: three young children and one teen about fourteen. She could only see the back of the mother’s head sticking up behind her husband and the young teen sitting across from the woman.

    “I don’t know why I can’t lose weight. I exercise all the time, don’t I?” asked the woman. Sarah remembered feeling that very same way.

    “That’s because you’re eating the wrong food!” Sarah
    mumbled.

    “What are you yelling at me for?” asked Sarah’s husband, looking up at her with a confused look. “I’m pretty much eating the same thing you are!” Hmm. Not exactly, thought Sarah as she looked over at his full blown plate of nachos.

    “No, not you.” Sarah laughed. “I’m talking about the lady behind you.”

    “My mommy says Barberitos is not a healthy place to eat,” a little girl chimed in. Sarah nodded her head and smiled in full agreement, jabbing another piece of Romaine and chicken with her plastic fork. “We get 2% milk at school, “ said the little girl, proud of her low fat stand. “Wow! To think she’s only four years old,” said the mother. Sarah couldn’t tell whether or not the mother was impressed or annoyed with the child.

    Sarah wanted badly to get up from her booth and to offer her services to the lady. It was obvious she needed some guidance to achieve her goal. How would she go about it? “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but over hear your frustration regarding your weight loss.” Maybe that would be too forward. But she obviously was dissatisfied with herself. Sarah knew she could help the woman. Reaching in her purse, she pulled out her wallet and began to search for a business card. Nothing. Maybe I should write my number down and have her call me.

    Sarah’s husband was obviously anxious to leave. They picked up their trays and threw away their trash. As they left the parking lot and began to drive down the street, Sarah checked her wallet one more time. There it was. Sarah Hendricks, Nutritional Coach: Foods for Thought.

  • I liked the detail and the imagery. It brings life to the whole scene. I’m still learning how to create reality. Thanks for the model.