Sometimes all you want is validation

I grew up in the rural Midwest where people didn’t have “careers” or “callings”; they had (have) jobs.

These were jobs they clocked in and out of every day, jobs that forced them into overtime and gave them two weeks vacation a year. When retirement from these jobs came, it was cause for celebration that–finally–they earned their break.

Having grown up in this world of practical strivings, writing fiction can seem silly. Self-indulgent. Privileged. It’s the reason why, after writing for years, I still haven’t “come out” as a writer. I keep thinking that as soon as I’ve written something good enough to sell, as soon as I can attach a dollar sign to my work, then I can tell my parents and my friends and my colleagues what I do. Because then it’s not silly. It’s a job that pays. That they can understand.

For so long I’ve thought that if I got the Big Publishing Deal then I’d have the validation necessary for me to come out. But what I didn’t realize was that validation doesn’t come from $$ but from connecting to readers.

I recently gave my WIP to beta readers. Which means that besides me, four other people have now read (at least large parts of) my book. Spoiler alert: there are problems. Big you-have-to-fix-this-now problems. But each and every one of them said a version of “you’ve got something really special here. Whatever you do, don’t stop.” And hearing that, after so many years of keeping my writing unshared and often unfinished, was revelatory.

It meant that I’d succeeded ,even though writing has never made me any $$.

What about you? Do you feel “successful” as a writer? Why or why not?