Validation Is A Drug

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017-11-07 13:00:00 No comments

May | 2013 | Doing In The Wizard

... I’ve noticed a trend in bad webcomics: they tend to also be the first webcomic the author has ever put out. Because everyone sucks at first. Doesn’t matter if it’s writing or art or zero-gravity topiary, if it’s your first time doing it you’re going to vomit out an amateurish mess. That’s fine. It will be a stepping stone to something better. Unless you then put it out on the Internet, where it somehow attracts a following. People flock to your forums to sing you praises, they buy your crappy home mode merchandise. Maybe you even start making enough money to live off full time. And suddenly, there’s no reason to get better. You’re already on top. And what should be a stepping stone turns into the end point of your progress as a creator.

Emphasis mine.

First off: The attached post is a rather virulent attack on The Kingkiller Chronicles, so if you're a fan of the work in question you may be irked by that. I am not a fan of the books myself (read the first one, wasn't impressed with it), although I think the tone of the essay in question is more vitrolic than it needs to be. But I thought the part chomped out above is worth talking about entirely apart from the attack on Rothfuss's work. Anyway:

The biggest danger independent creators face is having either no feedback at all, or feedback that isn't helpful. Bad feedback isn't just random insults or useless pseudo-professional advice. Sometimes effusive, thoughtless praise is bad, too, because some people have no idea what to do with it when they receive it. They may not realize that not everyone who says you're doing a good thing may know what they're talking about, and that you're not obliged to agree with them.

But it's tempting to do that. Validation is a drug. Especially when it comes in the form of Just Plain Folks coming out of the blue to tell you they like what you're doing, or that it struck their heart in some personal way. You want to say, "Thank you," and a "thank you" is often entirely justified. But when responding to, and feeding, the enthusiasm of others becomes the overriding concern in your creative work, you're not simply saying "thank you" and receiving a "you're welcome" anymore. You're allowing your thinking about your work — the thinking that most needs to be yours — to be hijacked by others.

Creative work is a dialogue. People make things, audiences respond to them, and other audiences use them as a model to create new things — in imitation of them, in response to them, in defiance of them, in ignorance of them. Fans and audiences are part of that process. Their enthusiasm is vital. But it has a limit, and that limit is when it interferes with your ability to do more than the same thing again and again.

"You're already on top." To me that is the gloomiest thing any artist can say to themselves. This isn't about tops or bottoms; this is about being in motion, or remaining at rest, or, worse, sliding backwards. Where you are in relation to anyone else is not as important as whether or not you're moving.

Tags: creativity do-it-yourself psychology validation