Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seeking Approval


I was thinking about the need to have others call my work ‘good,’ when I remembered the story of the mother who gave her son two sweaters. He let her know how much he liked them. The next day he wore one of them, and she said, “What’s the matter? You didn’t like the other one?”

The need for approval cannot be satiated. It needs to be tamped down, because there is no ultimate resolution or release from it. I have a friend who has garnered many accolades, but always says the approval has not come “from the right people.” In her case it is a spouse who cannot bring himself to say, “You’ve done good.” For many, it is the voice of a parent, even if no longer here, who is forever unsatisfied.

In her book on writing, Crafting Stories for Children, Nancy Lamb calls this voice ‘the spoiler,’ and suggests talking back to it, even getting sassy. I think this applies to all we do.

Because the never-satisfied, never all right, who-do-you-think-you-are strains have overwhelmed too many good efforts. I write this on a day when I’m resolved to punch ‘em back. Go ahead; try telling me my post is worthless, I’m wasting my time, or worse- that it’s nice, but so what?

Today it will not matter. I got my punching gloves on. Tomorrow is another day.

10 comments:

  1. Well said. No matter how many accolades you get, you still have to write the next book -- that fear of what people will think, or the need for approval only stifles us. This is something I struggle with sometimes, but I'm lacing up my gloves now. :)

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  2. Sometimes the most important approval does come from within.

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  3. Love that idea to get sassy with that spolier voice!

    I once had a very wise person ask me who I was trying to impress. When I realized the answer wasn't "me" it was a revelation.

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  4. I think it's normal to seek approval. I just got my WIP back from one of my beta readers and I was dying for her approval. Yes, I want areas I can improve on, and she gave me those, but overall, I want that bit of approval to know I'm doing well.

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    1. Absolutely normal, Kelly. But beware of paralyzing disapproval. That’s the other side of it.

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  5. Never have I thought one of your posts is worthless, Mirka! My time reading through every word is always well-spent and today is no exception as I chuckle one minute and go "hmmm" the next.

    Creative people especially suffer from this problem, I think. We have our vision, we work so hard to make it happen, and we crave the feedback that says, "Yes! I get it and I like it!" Problem is that not everyone will get it and not everyone will like it. Not to mention that a lot of them who do will never tell us so.

    My approach to this has finally been to be true to myself, my vision, my voice and if I am, that's what matters. Sure, there will be others who think they must be vocal in telling me my writing is no good, my characters are weak, my novel goes nowhere. Whatever. My remedy is to move away from that and get busy writing another one.

    Can you tell your post got me thinking?

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    1. Yes, Karen. And I like your posts & novels too. (=mutual admiration and respect.) But as ARCs of my book go out to reviewers, I’m preparing for what may come back.

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  6. The fight with that voice is never-ending, and it does, indeed, apply to all we do. Usually I can ignore it until it goes away, but at times it can be annoyingly persistent. Thanks for the post!

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  7. Yes -- getting approval from some sources will never make up for not getting it from others. I like to think if you get it from your closest loved ones, that's enough. But I know that I want my work to be thought good by industry standards, whatever exactly that means.

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  8. I think "it'll never be good enough" is the younger sister of "you'll never be good enough" and "something bad is going to happen if you try." They live in the attic of my house, making noise at the most inopportune times. Most of the time they don't get out, but like the first Mrs. Rochester, sometimes they escape...

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