The Importance of Internal Validation for Conscious Writers

Friday 20 April 2018 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

A few days ago I met up with a friend and colleague who’s just finished the first draft of the book she’s been working on for more than a year.

She was delighted to have completed the manuscript on time, and even more importantly, feels elated by the way it has turned out.

Having not written anything longer than articles and blog posts before, initially she wasn’t sure if she had what it takes to write a full length book.

Now she’s done so in a way that feels to her like “mission accomplished”, and whatever happens from this point on, nothing can take away her strong sense of creative achievement.

Internal Validation

In a recent post on The Creative Power of Deadlines, I shared my own experience of feeling an immense degree of internal validation when I completed the manuscript for my book Conscious Writing.

There’s nothing quite like the inner sense that you’ve created something from nothing in a way that’s delivered the deepest and most authentic expression of your message in the best way you’re able to at the time.

It provides a solid foundation for all that follows when it comes to sharing your work in the world and the inevitable challenges that are part of that process.

Internal validation also sets you free from any attachment you may have to a “perfect” outcome and paves the way for you to enjoy writing over the long term based on your own interpretation of success.

External Validation

Compare this with the fact that a high percentage of writers and artists of all kinds feel the need for someone else to validate their work.

Writers often seek approval from just about anyone including friends and family who undoubtedly have the best of intentions yet naturally have no chance of objectivity and unwittingly crush fledgling projects with careless comments.

Agents and publishers are an obvious source of external validation for writers and it’s completely understandable that aspiring authors are keen to receive the approval of publishing professionals.

I’m certainly not saying that there’s anything wrong with that in principle; it’s wonderful when that kind of confirmation leads to books being signed up and successfully published.

Sensitivity Overdrive

However, when you rely on external validation in order to keep showing up to do your creative work, the chances are that sooner or later your sensitivity to the reactions of others will go into overdrive.

At this stage, the smallest and most insignificant detail can be easily misinterpreted and become a major block to progress.

This has become the reality for countless people I’ve worked with who’ve spent months and sometimes years in the creative wasteland feeling “there’s no point” because someone once made a comment that was hijacked by their inner critic.

Yet with the right guidance and support to release the doubts and align with a deeper level of inner truth, the process of creation is experienced as an immensely rewarding end in its own right.

With that in place, you’re free to explore your vision of what comes next without any sense of judgement or fear and with a healthy degree of equanimity.

The Take Away

The take away here is to realize that what you think and feel about your writing and the other ways you express yourself creatively is fundamentally more important than the subjective opinion of anyone else.

By all means embrace the boost to your confidence that comes from positive feedback about your work but avoid the feeling that you need that external validation.

In my experience the best way to do so is to strengthen the connection to your core purpose through adopting a conscious approach that draws you out of fear and into alignment.

This is how to set yourself free to create and write what you’re here to create and write in an increasingly self-contained way so that external validation becomes the icing on the cake.

How do you feel about the balance between internal and external validation for your writing and creative expression generally? Please share your comments or ask a question below. Thank you!

9 Comments

  • Hi Julia,
    Thanks for this post. I have been contemplating these issues lately.

    writers usually have Both conviction and self doubt, yet to make progress, improve, or get work out into the world, we must get feedback from others at some point. that feedback will usually be a mixture of accolades and deficiencies, even after the work is published. Writers Groups or writing courses are probably the safest options for feedback at first, but even then, we need to be able to hear suggestions for improvement without letting them undermine our confidence and the entire project. I find that I need to return to my conviction, self belief, and the reason I am Creating to avoid being derailed by feedback. It’s a delicate balance: insufficient progress without feedback, but feedback should help guide the journey, not undermine it.

    So intrinsic validation is most important for creating, but we need extrinsic validation as well unless we want to work in a vacuum and have no desire for an audience.

    Again, Thank you for taking time to discuss this issue and the importance of staying strong.

    • Hi Memoirist, thanks for your comment and your points are absolutely well made.

      There is indeed a blend of conviction and self-doubt for most of us who write, and I absolutely agree that constructive feedback at the appropriate time from trusted sources is an integral part of the writing journey when our work is intended for an audience.

      Also, the reality is that not everyone will like what we write or how we express ourselves so we certainly need to develop the skill of handling criticism without being completely derailed.

      However, there’s a difference for me between the internal validation I’m pointing to in this post and the feedback and/or criticism you’re referring to even if the lines do seem to be a bit blurred.

      The way I see it, internal validation works from the inside out so, for example, when we feel that we’ve written the first draft of a manuscript that feels like “mission accomplished”, it’s an excellent starting point for all that comes next.

      From that state of inner confidence, we’re then empowered to address feedback and editorial suggestions and take on board what resonates and discuss those that don’t with the person concerned without losing our self-confidence in the process.

      Anyway, I hope that makes sense and thank you again for your thoughtful comments which have raised some important points that I’m sure many readers will find helpful.

  • Hi Julia – Such an important topic. I agree with you and “memoirist”. we all have two critics to deal with – internal and external, and either one can be healer or slayer or both. but, as you state so clearly,what’s most important is having a strong internal core that can provide the only real basis of confidence and continuing creative power. developing that core is a lifetime’s work, at least it has been for me. my memoir, king od doubt, is about my struggle (decades long) to develop that core. what i discovered in the writing is that nothing in life has helped me more than the actual writing of that story. claiming the story, explaining to myself and the world, that i suffered from debilitating self doubt and a hyper-active internal critic, is actually what finally got that critic to settle down and give me a little credit. whew! thanks again for such an important post.

    • Hi Peter, thank you. There are indeed both inner and outer critics which is exactly why you’re so right about having the strong internal core as a basis of confidence – hence the conscious approach to writing which develops the clarity and alignment required for strengthening the inner core.

      It’s great to hear that writing your story has been so powerful for you and led to taming your inner critic! Kudos to you for that Peter and thanks again for sharing.

  • External validation mirrors our internal validation about ourselves as writers. My belief and confidence in myself as a writer has grown during the five years I have been writing my first book. that belief has now been validated by my editor and literary agent who has submitted proposals to interested publishers at the London international book fair. it is early days yet but I know that without my internal validation, I would not have reached this point In my conscious writing journey.

    • Hi Jeanine, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s good to hear that your inner belief and confidence came through for you during the writing process which I know you approached with Conscious Writing to guide you.

      Now you have that external validation too which is opening up a whole new level of the journey and whatever happens from the book fair meetings, you know that you have something of value to share. One way or another I have no doubt your book will reach your intended readers. Best of luck with the next phase!

  • Hi Julia
    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this topic. It’s something that I have wrestled with for as long as I have been writing for publication, although I haven’t consciously articulated it as you have done here.

    I’m finding writing blogs is a great way for me to approach both productivity, which gives me an internal sense of validation, and receiving feedback from followers, which gives me a form of external validation too.

    • Hi Juliet, thank you for your comment and I hope that the way I’ve articulated this has been useful for you.

      Your example of blog writing serving both internal and external validation purposes is excellent so thanks for sharing that. Julia

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