Motivation Be Creative By James Chartrand What type of writer are you? Are you the type who glows with pleasure when a client compliments a piece you’ve done or when readers go crazy over a post you wrote? Or are you the type who enjoys praise and thanks people for compliments but who doesn’t really need that to know the work was awesome? It’s about where you get that sense of validation and approval – from the outside or from within? Some people are externally validated, and they feel they’ve reached approval when others have a positive reaction to their work. Internally validated people tend to find that approval from within, and they give themselves their own approval. You should know which type of validation you seek, if you’re a writer. (I’ll tell you why in just a little bit, so keep reading.) Who or what gives you that golden stamp of approval? What tells you that you’ve done a good job? How do you know when the work you’ve done was great? Here are a few clues to help you determine whether you’re externally or internally validate: If you’re externally validated, you might: Wait for comments to come in before you feel you can heave a sigh of relief Think a good post is one that has many comments, not just a few Hope for a client’s positive feedback and relax only when you receive it If you’re internally validated, you might: Feel like you know the work is good Deliver to clients and move on to the next job without thinking twice Think that comments are nice but that they don’t really matter So why should you know where you fit in? Because I’ve noticed that internally validated writers tend to have more confidence about their work, stress less over writing and feel more relaxed in general. There’s nothing wrong with being more externally validated than internally validated, of course (or vice versa). You are who you are, and if it’s working for you, that’s great. There are also exceptions to the rules – aren’t there always? But I’ve noticed that, predominantly, writers who just know their work is good and who don’t really care if clients rave or not (though it is nice), tend to be more self-assured about their work and have lower levels of anxiety. They also suffer less writer’s block, it seems. They know what they have to do, they know what makes their writing solid, they know how to write well, and most importantly, they don’t get jammed when client or readers didn’t have the response they desired. I see people suffer writer’s block all the time. It’s painful to observe. In almost every single case, I’ve noticed clues that these anxiety-ridden writers are externally validated people. Think I’m wrong? Imagine this: You worked hard on a post for an idea you had – a good idea, one that made you feel exicted. You spent hours writing and sweated to get the post just right. And when you finished, you liked the piece. You thought it was pretty damned good. But then your readers started commenting. First one didn’t like it. Then another. In fact, most people really didn’t like your post at all. Some told you bluntly that it was a terrible piece and others said they just didn’t get the point. They wished you’d written something else. A few readers even unsubscribed from your blog. Alright, that’s not a fun situation for either type of writer, internally or externally validated. The point is that each type of writer will react very, very differently to this scenario. Can you imagine how? The internally validated writer might be a little stung. Probably more indignant than anything. He might shrug the criticism off, argue with readers or point out the nuances that make the work special. He might even think he should’ve kept this post and idea to himself. The externally validated writer? He’d be crushed. This doesn’t mean internally validated writers are better at handling feedback. But they wouldn’t be crushed by negative criticism. And they’d be able to write again. The externally validated writer would be able to write again too, but how do you think he’s feeling about it? He’s probably feeling nervous, maybe even a little scared. Maybe he doesn’t think he’s a good writer after all anymore. Or that he shouldn’t be blogging. Maybe he starts to doubt his ability to write in the first place, because now he can’t seem to write at all. Every sentence comes out sounding awkward. The work is slow going. It’s getting harder and harder to write. Nothing comes out properly. Some days there are blank pages. And eventually more of them, until writing becomes a dreaded struggle. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If an externally validated writer gets his approval from others, and those others have resoundingly told him his work didn’t pass muster… well. What will it take to bring the spark back to life? One of two things: Someone to bring approval back to that writer’s life The ability to find that approval again – from within When you learn how to stop seeking external validation and start getting that sense of approval from within, I believe you can seriously smash through writer’s block and even move forward to create a mental environment where you can perform easily, well and with full self-confidence. But moving from being externally validated to enjoying more of a balance with internal validation takes time. And it also takes some proactive thought patterns to help you direct validation back where it works best for you. Here are some tips to help: Each time you have a negative thought such as, “I’m no good at this. I can’t write. This sucks,” firmly tell yourself that you can write (you’ve done it before), you are good at this (after all, you’ve succeeded in the past), and that it doesn’t suck (it’s just a situation you can learn from). Believe yourself, too. Be tough on yourself and tell yourself to stop thinking you’re a failure – you’re not. Get the event behind you in the past, and don’t wallow in it. You’re a writer who had a rough patch and it’s over. Don’t let yourself stay there in yesterday, and live in today. Put the situation in the past where it belongs and tell yourself that today, you’re working on moving forward. When you get a bit of confidence back, put yourself to the text. Prepare some writing that you’re going to show someone else. Also (most importantly), prepare affirmations that you’ll tell yourself no matter what that person says about your work. Preparing before the moment of feedback in this way conditions you to always have strong, self-confident words to tell yourself at the slightest hint of criticism – eventually the criticism won’t bother you at all, and you’ll be able to listen objectively without feeling hurt. By waiting for someone else to give you approval, you’re actually giving away control (and your ability to write with self-confidence). You’re giving other people the power to decide if your work is worthy or not – shouldn’t you be the judge of that? Sure, feedback is helpful and you should listen to see where you could improve, but remind yourself that whoever is giving the feedback isn’t the Almighty Ruler of Approval and doesn’t get to decide where you measure up. Remember that you’re in control of your thoughts and therefore, your results. If the result you want is to never have to depend on anyone’s approval and never be crushed by negative feedback? Then control your thoughts and tell yourself you don’t need anyone’s approval and that feedback doesn’t bother you – you’ll achieve your desired result. Like I said, it may not be easy and it will take time, but I nearly guarantee that the more you bring validation back to yourself so that you get it from within, the more control you’ll have over your ability to write, write well, and write often. Without needing anyone’s approval.