As a writer—especially on those days when the writing is not going so well—we seek validation that what we do has a positive impact on others. We may think we do, but do we really? How do we know unless someone tells us? Even when we get our work published, we wonder, is anyone reading this? Has it made a difference in their day, and hopefully their life by at least entertaining them or nudging them in the right direction?
Today I got an unexpected validation from someone I don’t know half a world away from where I live here in Borneo, when a reader wrote in the letters section of the September issue of The Writer about my article in their May issue
"Thanks to Robert Raymer for his informative article 'Get started with prewriting techniques' [May]. It’s a keeper. I intend to use this technique to brainstorm for my next project. I’ve been reading The Writer since I was in fifth grade, and I always find something useful in it." Margaret Carroll, via e-mail
There it is validation! How nice! The article, by the way, was adapted from the teaching units that I created for a creative writing course that I set up at USM in Malaysia and also taught at UNIMAS.
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Then a Google search turned up the following, where I’m quoted in a Suite101.com blog post by Catia Trookin, “How to Overcome and Cure Writer's Block” ), where she wrote:
"In a May 2010 article in The Writer magazine entitled Get Started with Pre-Writing Techniques Robert Raymer suggests that 'When you have no suitable ideas for a topic, the fastest way to get one is to free write.' Raymer suggests free writing any thought that appears for a minute non-stop. Once an idea is generated 'clustering' can be used to expand upon the idea."
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There, not one, but two validations from the same article in one day!
Now and then I'll come across a blog where one of my books is being commented on, or recommended to others; last month, in the blog "...Still crazy after all these years!" both were:
"My sister-in-law is a kiwi, a New Zealander…and she was here [Sarawak] on a visit the other day and she picked up a book at the Popular Book Store at the Delta Mall here–Robert Raymer‘s Tropical Affairs. She was enthralled by all the Malaysian culture depicted in that book and when I told her that I had his other book, Lovers and Strangers Revisited, she was really keen on getting her hands on it and reading it too. Well, I lent it to her and she thoroughly enjoyed it as well."
Then Philip added this comment: "I have Lovers and Strangers [Revisited]. It’s a great book. I love the story about the taxicab encounter ['On Fridays']. Just wish more local authors would jump in and share their fantasies with the rest of us too..."
And the blogger replied: "Ah! You like the book too. I like 'Neighbors' – very typically Malaysian. My daughter loves the book too.”
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Wow, that really made my day!
Then as a bonus, Adeline, a newly-added friend just contacted me via Facebook:
"Although I have not met you before, I'm already so in love with your book, Lovers and Strangers Revisited. For your info, I would not call myself an avid reader, especially when it comes to literature. But after being recommended by a friend, I started reading your stories and I just couldn't put the book down before I finished all your stories!
“I really love the way you write them and I could actually relate to the stories quite well. By the way, I'm from Kuching too. Hope to attend one of your creative writing workshops in near future. All the best and I'm looking forward to getting a copy of your Tropical Affairs!"
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This is exactly what every writer needs, some validation that they're on the right track! Awards are nice, but when a stranger praises your article in a letter to an editor, or references your work and quotes you, or recommends your book on their blogs, or tells you that they couldn’t put your book down on Facebook, now that's really cool!
So the next time you have one of those days when you’re in doubt about your writing, try Google, and even if you only find one solitary reference about your writing, you’re on the right track, so get back to writing!
*Update, the 20th anniversary
of Lovers and Strangers Revisited
**Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.