It wasn’t until about three years ago that I felt I could really write.
When you first start writing — publicly, at least — it feels like the most terrifying thing in the world to put your thoughts out there. Your views and the way you choose to frame them through words and phrases are all available to be judged by the world wide web. Pretty scary shit.
The only way to really be sure of yourself and your writing is through validation. Perhaps it’s the excitement on your mom’s face when you show her your first published post, or the nice comments all your friends leave on your Facebook page when you share it. Hey, some of them might even share it too, should they really stand by what you’ve done (or, you know, if they just want to be a good friend and show some support).
Validation is an interesting thing. Growing up, I would always seek it from my dad. I guess you could say he was a typical Asian parent: never showing much praise or pride in the hopes of pushing me to do even better and to be my best self.
Obviously, when you’re growing up, you don’t realize this and always just think of yourself as a screw-up. Or not good enough. At least, that’s how I felt.
Flash forward to when I first started writing (again, publicly), and all that self-doubt and lack of confidence I felt as a child came rushing back. Presenting my writing to the world was just like showing my dad my latest test scores … would he be happy with it? Was it good enough? Was I good enough?
A big turning point for me came from my mentor/editor at my last job. When I first started out, she sat down with me to give me feedback on how I was doing. She had a lot of good things to say, and a lot of constructive criticism, but mentioned nothing about my writing.
Finally, I hesitantly asked her, “What about my writing? Is it OK?”
“Madelyn, you’re a great writer,” she said, as if that was a given.
And right then and there, something clicked, and I finally considered myself a good writer.
I’m not sure what it was about that particular instance that really resonated with me. Maybe it was because she was someone I really respected and looked up to. Maybe it was because I knew she could be brutally honest, and would tell me if something was awfully written.
After that, I finally found the courage to share my writing with my dad.
“Madelyn, this is good work,” he replied via email. And that was the ultimate validation.
I still have my doubts, naturally. I always want to improve, and writing about my feelings and then sharing them is much more daunting than writing about Paulina Gretzky in a bikini (note: I don’t care what anyone says, I love Paulina and I love writing about her). Heck, even pitching to other editors still scares the shit out of me, and I often question my abilities.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, the best kind of validation comes within. It’s something I’m still continuing to work on — appreciating my writing, my work, myself without relying on validation from others.