Taking a Step Back: Reflecting on Writing and Validation

I’m not discouraged, but I now realize I’m in a place where I need to stop seeking validation.

This is something I’ve been working through in my own life and somewhat in therapy, but I believe it’s time I put it fully to practice. For that reason, I’ve decided I’m going to stop submitting and pitching my writing for a while.

The reason for this is twofold: firstly, I developed a bad habit of obsessing over submissions throughout last winter, spring, and throughout the summer. I would look up any and all opportunities to submit/pitch my writing, without ever feeling confident in said writing itself. Then, I would receive rejections. Normally rejections don’t bother me too much, as it is part of being a writer who wants to share their work. I’ve even got some of the kindest rejections, where they say they enjoyed my work and ideas but couldn’t find a place for it (those are the best rejections to get, the almost ones). Lately, though, I’ve questioned why I am so eager to submit my writing to certain publications. Is it because I truly want to share it in that publication? Is it because it fits the publication’s theme or call for pitches? Or is it because I want the validation of a publication credit? Honestly, it could be all of the above. That said, I do know that I haven’t been writing as much since last winter/spring.

Last winter, I began rewriting a novel idea that’s been brewing for years, a novel idea I’ve been meaning to rework since I finished its draft when I was 18. Then, in February, I got stuck. But no matter, because I was working on adapting my stage play into a radio play, which was an incredibly awesome and rewarding experience. I love the director/sound designer and the cast; I’m also so grateful to the festivals we’ve presented at virtually.

(Here’s a selfish plug to go listen to Happy Pills the radio play adaptation at Atlanta Fringe Audio 2021 now, also available on Spotify and wherever else you get your podcasts! It will be up and available until June 2022.)

In spring 2021 I also wrote a novella for an online contest, which I won’t share here due to it being written under my pen name, but I enjoyed it immensely. It helped me come to terms with parts of my identity that I have not shared publicly and am not sure I will at this time or maybe ever. I have plans to lengthen it to be a longer novella or potentially novel-length because the cast of characters and the world is one I feel can be rich.

I have a plethora of other ideas sitting unfinished, waiting for me to tend to them as well. Novels, short stories, essays, and more. But they won’t get written if I don’t write them and I’m solely focused on publications. It may be time to leave some of the older works behind and focus on what is speaking to me presently, even if those older works never get published.

That’s okay. I need to learn to be okay with it. I am not the same writer I was at 14, 18, 21, and even at 24. I have changed as the world has changed, as my life has changed, and I need to reconcile that in my writing. It doesn’t mean abandoning every idea I’ve ever had, but it does mean spending time cultivating them. Planning them. Writing them.

V.E. Schwab just had an excellent story post on Instagram recently. She spoke about how she writes out a beat sheet for the scenes she drafts for novels. The way she spoke about beats in scenes resonated with everything I’ve learned and applied in my theatre studies and productions. In playwriting, there are beats. I make sure there are beats in my playwriting, whether it’s beats I put it or it’s places where actors can find beats later on. Why should it not be the same with prose writing? It is definitely the same in poetry. In essays and nonfiction too. I like this concept a lot, and I think I may put it into practice for more than just my playwriting. It is time to hone my prose writing and pay attention to the moments of a scene. It’s no coincidence that in 2021, V.E. Schwab is one of my new favorite authors, as I’ve finally read some of her works.

I always wanted to be one of those published authors who get published in their early or mid-20s, but I’m not. I’m 26, soon to turn 27 in February 2022, and given all of the major life changes that have happened in 2021–let alone 2020–I need to give myself and my writing practice some grace.

This is mostly a reflection for me, but if you found some value in it, then thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on your own writing practice.

I may continue blog writing more often; I may not. My dear friend Chandler (who has excellent blog posts, do go read them) said it is refreshing for him, and I find it to be as well.

Here’s to what’s ahead, whatever that may be.

Published by Alyssa C.

Writer & theatre artist from Iowa. Currently quarantining in the Pacific Northwest. MA in Intercultural Communication Studies from Shanghai Theatre Academy (expected 2021).

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