We all secretly crave it, don’t we?


No matter what we do in life, whether it’s to get a problem eater to try peas or to crack the genetic code, deep down we all wish for the same thing: Recognition. For that one person to notice us and in noticing us, to let us know we are doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just a simple “well done” will do. But that simple gesture can go a long way to helping us validate our own self-worth.

If you’re a writer, that validation comes in the form of someone saying, “I loved your book.” There are no sweeter words than those – except, perhaps, “So when’s the next one coming out.” For a writer, this is more important than an award, more important than critical acclaim, for when a reader tells you that they love what you wrote, that is the culmination of your life’s work. Validation. Proof that all those months, if not years, of slaving over your masterpiece were well worth all of the blood, sweat and tears you wrung out of yourself in the process. And although I, for one, write the stories for myself first before deciding if I will share them with the public, secretly I yearn for that recognition. For someone to read what I wrote and say, “Hey, this is good.”

If you’re anything like me, it takes a lot to get from the just-for-me-stage to the ready-for-prime-time stage for two reasons: 1) I have a wicked internal editor who is constantly dogging my steps, driving me to perfection and goading me with the possibility that I might never achieve it because what I am putting down onto paper is drivel; and 2) I also have a fear of recognition. Deep down, I fear that someone will read what I wrote and proclaim it utter crap.

So you see, Recognition is a double-edged sword; it can cut either way.

What are your thoughts on Recognition? I’m curious to know.

Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul


Filed under writing

11 responses to “Recognition

  1. It’s taken me a long time to come to enjoy the process of creating; but always in the back of my mind is a desire to connect with the reader. Face it, writing is a solitary endeavor. Like an athlete who works out during the offseason to condition himself, writers, too, spend long hours perfecting their craft as well as their text. If a cheering crowd on Sunday afternoon is a sort of validation for an athlete’s hard work ethic, writers, too, crave, in recognition of their work, a sort of validation.

    I think I’m at a point in my literary career when I know when I’ve written something outstanding and when I’ve written something unremarkable. Still, I take great satisfaction when someone leaves a comment on my blog. I don’t think of it as validation as much as I do having connected with someone.

    A fine entry, Margay; thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Margay

    And a very fine observation, J. Conrad. You are so right. But I guess, part of the validation process is being given the proof that we have connected with someone. I think that’s what drives me, knowing that I can connect with people through my writing whether it’s in a book or on a blog. And you’re right, when people leave comments on your blog, a new connection is made.

  3. Don’t mothers all crave recognition while the kids take us for granted. And then that one word, one glance, says it all and makes it worth while. If I ever get published I suspect I’ll feel the same craving, but books can’t look at me. I guess if they sell that’s like the special glance.

  4. Margay

    So true, Sheila! And you will realize that books mirror children in other ways, too.

  5. This is a very interesting post. Of course, we all want our work recognized–want it to find an audience who will love it the way we writers do.

    I have to remind myself that no one will love my book the way I, as its creator, love it. I want readers to savor each word . . . to ponder the characters the way I did when I wrote it.

    That’s not going to happen. I’m a reader as well as a writer. I read to be entertained. To lose myself in a great story. And maybe that’s all I can hope for from those that read my work. And believe me that’s PLENTY!

    I’m perfectly willing to accept the “This is a quick read” (even when it took a year to write!) as long as I don’t get “this is the worst piece of work ever”.

  6. Margay

    Thanks, JB, and you are right. Having someone say your book is a quick read is not necessarily a detractor. In fact, it’s something of a compliment. If someone is so invested in your book that they read it quickly, then that’s wonderful! I’ve had several people tell me that about my book, Nora’s Soul. One even said that they tried to read it slowly to extend the experience, but they got so caught up in the story, the next thing they knew, they were done. I took that as a huge compliment.

  7. A quick read means two things: first, that the text, or story, was compelling enough to keep the reader turning pages; second, that the story was light fare and required little concentration on the part of the reader.

    While I’ve read and enjoyed both types, I’ve found the latter more easily forgettable. My preference is for a story that stays with me long after I’ve closed the cover for the last time.

  8. christinehusom

    So many good points. It takes a bit of bravery to put your work out there for people to scrutinize. Some will love it, some won’t. I wrote my books to be fast reads, and consequently, though every word seems important to me, many may get skimmed over in the process of reading quickly.

  9. Margay

    Same here, J. Conrad!

  10. Margay

    Yes, Christine, but the most important thing is that the book is read, correct? I think there are several filler words we use that are easy for the eyes to skim over – like “and,” “the” and “said” – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you want some words to sink into the background so the point of the scene, the point of the book, can shine through.

  11. All in all, I believe the art of the novel is in decline today.

    Today’s writers are advised to keep it simple, to write to a sixth-grade level. To me, how something is said is as important as what is said; but I’ve heard many participants on online writing forums confess to being taught of the danger of “taking the reader out of the story” by writing with any kind of flair.

    Elmore Leonard, who writes with a screenplay mentality, boasts that he leaves out of his stories any lengthy narrative he thinks the reader will skip over. Apparently, I’m one of only a few readers in a nation Europeans view as largely illiterate who enjoys rich narrative. I’d much rather read Chandler’s lush narratives—“The gentle-eyed, horse-faced maid let me into the long gray and white upstairs sitting room with the ivory drapes tumbled extravagantly on the floor and the white carpet from wall to wall. A screen star’s boudoir, a place of charm and seduction, artificial as a wooden leg” than some modern best-selling novelist who dumbs it down to “The maid let me into the upstairs sitting room.”

    Sadly, I think we’ve become a nation short on attention span, the result of Internet shorthand and text messaging. We want to be entertained and we don’t want to have to work very hard at it. Which I think is why flash fiction is so popular today: a piece can be read in the bathroom in, if you’ll pardon the expression, one sitting, and forgotten in a matter of minutes.

    Just my two cents. Now I’ll hop down from my soapbox.

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