Validation

“No one forces you to ply the trade you follow. But if you do choose it, then acquit yourself to the best of your ability. And above all, you should not think of writing as a way of earning your living. If you do, your work will smell of poverty. It will be colored by your weakness and be as thin as your hunger. There are other trades which you can take up… Our opinion of you will not be any poorer, and since you will be sparing us acres of boredom, we may even think the better of you.” – Essay on Novels, The Marquis de Sade

On the face of it, that statement seems rather bleak, doesn’t it? Don’t all of us writers dream of being able to write full time, rather than fitting it in around our already busy schedules? That is certainly my ultimate goal. However, that’s not quite what the Marquis is getting at…

Writing has its peaks and valleys, soaring heights and bottomless pits. If you’ve been writing for a while, you know what that feels like. Sometimes the Muse chatters, the words flow and you scribble furiously to get it all down or tap violently on the keyboard as the story unfurls before you. It’s your best work. It’s brilliant, in fact. You read and re-read, carefully editing and correcting your errors. Then you deliver it into the world, whether it be to your blog, as a self published book on Amazon or within a query letter to an agent. You eagerly await a response.

And nothing….

You get a few likes on your blog, maybe some vague praise in the comments. “Nice work.” “Great post.” Your book languishes, sales are weak, nonexistent even. The agents are silent, or worse, dismissive… “Thank you, but your work isn’t a good fit for me. Good luck in your journey…”

It takes some spine and some determination to keep your head above water in the flood tide that is the vast ocean of writing and publishing these days.

Here is where the Marquis’ advice applies. Even if the Marquis and his notorious behavior puts you off, in many he ways his unwavering determination to follow his nature holds for us a lesson. (For some biographical details on de Sade, see The Passionate Philosopher, by Mr Cake). Maintain your artistic vision and integrity. Do not pander to popular trends among current best selling books. The world does not need another 50 Shades of anything, for example. (The irony of using that as an example in a post quoting the father of sadism is not lost on me.) Don’t lose sight of the reasons you began to write in the first place. No one should choose to write or compose solely to make a living. Rather, you must write out of love. You must write because the words would burn you from the inside if you didn’t let them out. That is the stuff we want to read.

Nevertheless, we all want to be appreciated, have readers enjoy what we write. But it is a rare thing to achieve overnight success. Yet we have all come to expect instant gratification. With so much information at our fingertips, we are confused and discouraged if we can’t have ‘it’ right this very moment. Aspiring authors need to have a long view. To continue the ‘head above water’ analogy – it’s like swimming the English Channel rather than doing a lap in a pool. There will be times when it feels like those distant shores are no closer. You may stop and tread water for a while to catch your breath. You need strong steady strokes to keep going. Slowly but surely progress is made. And if you’re lucky, you have lots of friends and family in the support boat to cheer you on.

Don’t let your desire for validation derail your dreams. Whatever you write, for whomever you write, on whatever medium you write, remember that you love to write. And that alone makes it worth it.

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Photo via English Channel Swim . com

52 thoughts on “Validation

  1. Yeah… instant gratification. What trained us to want that? Did my parents spoil me? Because I have no memory of that. It definitely shows when someone is writing for any other reason than their own need to do so. Sometimes, it’s hard not to give in… not to change our vision to please the masses… but I’ve done just that and was not happy with the result. I certainly want everyone to enjoy my writing but not because I was pandering to them.

    On a side note, totally unrelated, it cracks me up when I get the alert for your “Wordless Wednesday” post… Immediately followed by a non-wordless post. 😃 LOL… Is it Wordless Wednesday or not, woman? 😄

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s just funny. 🙂 I always thought Wordless Wednesday would be a good thing to do so I wouldn’t have to write anything to post on Wednesdays… a break. But if I post something I wrote anyway… well, it’s not giving me a break! 😄

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      2. Ah, it’s funny…. the holdover from Diary of a New Writer, when I first started the blog. I’ve always posted stuff about writing/publishing on Wednesdays. I started doing the photo thing for the very reason of giving myself a break – and then I don’t do it! 😣

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  2. Meg..thanks for writing this and reminding me of some things I have forgotten. I’ve reached a weird place with my process to get my story published.
    For some reason I am dragging my feet getting to the point of putting it in a final state to be submitted.

    Im not sure if it’s fear or anxiety resisting these last few steps. Or it may be that my Muse is gently reminding me to move when my heart is ready….because that’s where the story comes from.

    Have a wonderful day and thank you for writing this. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fear of rejection is real. The query process is brutal. I’m going to try it again after I finish the project I’m working on. My ego was too fragile the last time I tried, with my very first novel, which is why I ended up self publishing. Your instincts (or your Muse) may be telling you to time it just right, that there is one more thing that you need to adjust before sending it out there. However, self doubt can be debilitating. Do you have beta readers? And are you using a professional editor? Feedback might help you get over some of the anxiety. But I’m excited for you! It’s almost ready to go! ✨💖✨

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  3. What a wonderful post, Meg! I’m not in a place where I’m desperately trying to get published (though I intend to, one day) so I totally get your post: I write because I want to and because I have to – it’s really that simple. (love that 50 shades quote mixed in with the original by the father of sadism 😉 )

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  4. I never knew much about the Marquis beyond his reputation as a sadist until you started mentioning The Crimes of Love. Is that where the Essay on Novels can be found? Every time you write about him I tell myself I need to check this out.

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    1. Yes. The Essay is the preface to the short story collection. I never would have thought to read him either, but for the recommendation of a friend. And prepare to be surprised. I’m about halfway through and the stories are not explicit in the least. Which is not to say they have happy outcomes for the characters… However, the Marquis is a very good story teller!

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  5. Been there, Meg, done all that, and still wearing the tee shirt, because it fits me to a T. It’s like the digging of the snow, and I won’t give up until it’s all gone … by May, this year, I would guess. Another storm coming in, another manuscript going out … “… and still I live in hopes to see, Swansea Town once more …” as my grandfathers sang in the trenches in WWI, except I never will see Swansea Town once more, because Swansea Town’s a City now. Even so, like my grandfathers, I still sing “… and still I live in hopes to see / Swansea Town once more …”!

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  6. Great post Meg and thanks for the link. I like Vic’s idea about the Marquis which is probably what he would be like. In Quills he is portrayed as an ageing rock star holed up in his ‘hotel’/ mental asylum. He had a knack for notoriety, he was infamous before he even put pen to paper, so he would probably thrive in today’s environment. As for writing, well I am considering a break myself as I am not even sure why I do, but maybe that is just me re-evaluating stuff given the say that is in it.

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    1. I understand that. My last birthday left me feeling pretty bleak. Still not sure I’ve fully recovered. We’ll talk about it after a few days have gone by. I hope you don’t give up writing. It will be our loss. Perhaps you’ve just set a pace that isn’t sustainable. Anyway…

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      1. You write far more than me, I only do 3 or 4 posts a week and I probably send less than 8 hours a week writing, so I didn’t really think it is the pace, more the rationale behind the project (though it isn’t really a project) and what I expect to get out of it, and the answer is I really don’t know the answer to either question. Anyway I will consider.

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      2. I am excited about the story but sometimes it feels like a colossal waste of time and effort without much return. Ho hum. You are not insane, just focused and driven. Anyway maybe I will be brimming with ideas after a good nights sleep.

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      3. It always feels like a waste of time when you’re not being validated. That’s what this post was about. Keeping the long view. This story of yours is publish worthy. Trust me. I would not give my own valuable time over to help you with it if I didn’t think so. Right?

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      4. Oh I don’t know… The shine has kind of worn off of everything the last few months. I fully hoped that my novel would cheer me up, but the struggles have been harder to overcome than I’ve previously experienced.

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  7. I’m clearly stating the obvious here but when the Internet and social media exploded writers were faced with all sorts of ways to get their works out…into the biggest information ocean never imagined. There are so many ways for people to continue to write as they wish, as they love. All people. There are so many talented writers who don’t get discovered aside from a handful of loyal followers…and indeed in the end the hope is they write because they love it first and foremost. I’m reminded of the story of aspiring singers who go out as Christmas carolers in the brutal winter each year to sing regardless if the weather has knocked down the crowds. But you never know who’s going to be in any of those crowds. You also never know who is going to be reading your work, wherever it resides. Great thoughts Meg.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bruce. Yes, here’s hoping. I am trying to finish up the first draft of this book, after which I am going to give the query process another shot. Self promoting is for the birds. I don’t have the time or inclination to do it. Nevertheless, I will always be a writer in one form or another!

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