Monday, September 11, 2006

Validation

I've been thinking about the writer's need for validation. You could probably supplant the word writer with just about anything (chef, artist, dock-worker, train operator, doctor), but I'll stick to what I know.

If you write and try to publish for long enough you learn quickly that rejection is as natural a part of writing as putting the actual words down on paper. There are many kinds of rejections: impersonal form rejections from literary magazines and agents; form rejections with little pulse-raising personal handwritten notes on them saying, "Try us again!" or "Please consider us for future work!" that act as just enough fuel to inspire you to keep at the numbers game of submitting. There are personal rejections that insult your actual writing, telling you it is contrived, sophomoric or not up to our standards. There are rejections that almost feel like acceptances: We loved everything about this story, alas, it was too long/not our style/we published something very similar this year. There are also rejections that come in the form of a lack of response. Your work didn't even earn the elbow grease it takes to send an email or S.A.S.E. back to you.

Writers seek publication because a)we want an audience and b)we want to be paid for our work, to make a living at it. Publication is, of course, the highest form of validation. When it comes with money, that is simply icing on the cake. Yet what I've come to realize about myself is that no matter how many times I am published, it is never enough. Writers are hungry. We need more, a steady diet of praise in one form or another. And the more I think about this, the more it seems like a very unbalanced way to be, yet I can't imagine ever not needing it.

I have played with trying to value the process over the product. I do, in fact, get great pleasure out of writing fiction of any kind. I feel better and am in generally higher spirits in fact, when I am writing fiction on a daily basis. Yet the longer I play the publishing roulette wheel, the less inspired I feel to write something that has no guarantee of being published. I wrote four novels that were simply born out of the passion of my being like that until I finally wrote one that both appealed to me and seems to appeal to that amorphous "commercial audience" too. I didn't sit down each day and try to write for an audience, but I purposely began a project, out of many burning in my imagination, that felt it had the more likely chance of finding a commercial home.

So now I am asking the question: What does it mean when my writing is not validated through publishing? Am I still purposeful? Does what I do still count, or do all those people who believe that writing is a waste of time get the last laugh?

JPR

3 Comments:

At 7:48 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Since I just about never get validation through publication, I think most of my validation at this point is internal. God forbid something was actually published in my own name and I might have to re-evaluate. ;)

 
At 8:28 PM, Blogger That Girl, The Writer said...

So now I am asking the question: What does it mean when my writing is not validated through publishing? Am I still purposeful? Does what I do still count, or do all those people who believe that writing is a waste of time get the last laugh?

Let's see...
I'm also quite unpublished, but I'll answer because I'm also a know-it-all. :D

a) People are stupid.

b) Yes... you're fantabulous.

c) Those people are stupid, too. Sometimes I think of the writing industry as an obstacle course and writing as an endurance challenge.

Long distance hugs. Don't let "the man" or his minions or his rejections or his minions rejections get you down. You rock.

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger Patry Francis said...

Have you been looking through my collection of rejection slips and letters? Some of those sound like direct quotes...

Validation is huge and important and wonderful, but writing is even better.

 

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