Validating My Writing

I can remember the moment I knew I was a writer. It wasn’t when I got my first book deal or held my words in my hands. It wasn’t when the reviews came in—the raving ones and the not-so-raving ones. It didn’t happen at writer’s critique group or at my first signing. In fact, I think I was more of a writer then than I am now.

Let me explain.

My moment came in 2009. I was fresh out of my college prerequisites and four weeks from beginning my ultrasound program. In those four weeks, I parked myself in front of my laptop and I wrote with reckless abandon. I didn’t think, I just did. My sentence structure was terrible. I didn’t know anything about description or character arcs or what made a plot, I simply knew I had a story to tell.

At the end of those four weeks I had a behemoth. 120,000 words of a YA novel. In case you missed it earlier: It. Was. Terrible. But that’s not important. What matters is how I felt. Exhilarated. Proud. Like I could take on the damn world simply because I created one. This was the moment that made me a writer. It didn’t matter that I switched between present and past tense every other paragraph or that my character rolled her eyes 469 times. My word count was 40,000-50,000 words above the limit for my genre. My exposition went on for pages like some terrible voiceover in a bad movie. I had no idea what I was doing. But, listen to me: None of that mattered.

Writing fulfilled something inside of me. It was a hollow place I’d been carrying around for decades, an empty space just begging to be filled. And I was BRIMMING with it. What’s it? you ask.

Hope. Purpose. Sadness. Sweetness. Pain. Possibility. Bitterness. Understanding. Magic.

I had created a whirlwind out of nothing. And it was the most amazing thing I have ever done. This is how art should feel. It should be everything, and yet, at the same time, it should be nothing at all.

In the space between my college break and now I have become many things. Am I still a writer? Absolutely. But I am also a copyeditor, a proofreader, a designer, a marketer, a social media expert, an agent searcher, a publicist, a giveaway creator, a review reader, and an internet Googler. And because I am all of those things, I no longer allow myself to just be a writer.

Now, because I am also an editor, I don’t allow myself to write with reckless abandon. There is a voice inside my head analyzing every word, sentence, page. Am I better because of this? Of course. Because I am a publicist, I must know what’s hot right now and how I can use it to my advantage. So what if I want to write a 700 page epic fantasy about a spork who goes rogue from Taco Bell. People want strong female characters (but not too strong) and males that know how to be in second place (but not too second place) and flowing, beautiful settings in cities I’ve never visited. They want characters who surprise them (but not too much) and romance that’s new (and yet the same). They want and want and want…

You know what I’ve lost along the way? My exhilaration. My purpose. Because I am also all these other things, my wonder with creation has suffered.

It all boils down to validation. (I could spend ten posts talking about writer validation!) In becoming all of these things and stretching myself so thin, I am telling myself that who I am is not good enough. I need an audience to be good. A web presence. An agent. An editor. I need reviews to validate everything I have written to prove…

To prove what?

That I am a writer?

But that’s wrong. The moment I felt most like a writer happened before I even knew how to write properly. Art should be messy. It should be soul-searching and in your face, not orderly and rigid, defined by rules and the limitations of knowledge. And it shouldn’t be defined by society, no matter how much they think they know.

I wish I could tell you that I find myself fulfilled simply by writing. What’s that saying? Ignorance is bliss. When I was blissfully unaware that my writing was terrible, it was PURE JOY to write. Hours flew by beneath my keys. My words—although not stellar—made me so happy I could’ve burst from it.

I do not know how to return to this place of reckless abandon…I only know that I want to.

Author photoKACEY VANDERKARR has a penchant for fantasy and frequently listens to the voices in her head—most of which belong to teenagers. When she’s not writing, Kacey coaches winterguard, works as a sonographer, and hangs out with other weirdos like her at the Flint Area Writer’s club. In addition to her novels, The Reflection Pond Series, Antithesis, and The Stone Series, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, Spark Vol VII, and Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland.


3 Comments on “Validating My Writing

  1. I can so relate to this. The times I feel most like a writer are when I am by myself, totally in the flow of creating (whether what I am creating is terrible or not). The rest of it–the editing, the querying, the publicity–is of course essential but not what makes me feel like a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kacie, thanks for this post. I hear you! I miss the wild, optimistic endorphin rush of my first book too. I also know the value of being the editor. But if I could have bottled that first book’s excitement and saved it, I would have!


    • Exactly! I wish I knew how to turn off my editor mind so I could get back to what I really love. But my editor is loud and demanding and she takes all the fun out of it!


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