I shared my new book idea with a book club last night (although I ended up not reading the pages I had printed out -- it just didn't feel right.) They asked what I was working on, and I told them. And the result? I got a little jolt of validation for my idea. Here's how I break that validation down:
1.) When I first described the main character, everyone was looking at me intently and nodding. They could "see" this character. That was good.
2.) When I described another character, several people interrupted me to say, "Oh, I know someone like that." Also good.
3.) When I said that I was unsure about the mother in this book -- who she was, what her story was -- people were quick to offer suggestions. They were engaged enough to care.
4.) When I said I wasn't sure if the ending of this book would be happy or sad, a debate ensued about which makes the most satisfying read. I loved that! I got the sense that there are readers out there just waiting for the books we're writing, whether they are happy or sad.
5.) The best validation? After the book club was over, one of the members came up to me privately and said that she had lived the story I was going to tell. She spoke to me with great reverence and emotion, and told me intimate details about her experience. It was wonderful. If made me feel as though I had tapped into something human and true. It made me want to keep writing.
Knowing when and how and with whom to share your work is not easy for writers who haven't done it. Cynthia Morris, a creativity coach, has some great tips for when and how and with whom to share your work.
I also like the concept of a trusted reader, which Mary Warner discusses on her blog, and the concept of being a resilient writer, which Catherine Wald explores in her book The Resilient Writer. After all, you're not likely to always get the validation you seek. But in that case, it's probably good to remember what Sinclair Lewis said:
It is impossible to discourage the real writers -- they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write.