One thing I would add, having been through this before myself and seeing my girlfriend going through it now as she takes up photography, is dealing with how people respond to your photos.
It can be disheartening when you take what you think is a great shot and nobody else (on Facebook, reddit/r/itookapicture, Flickr, etc.) seems to be interested. These feelings can be exaggerated when you see the photo that everybody is talking about is a simple cat photo or of some exotic location or event you're unlikely to find yourself in.
It's important not to allow yourself to feel discouraged.You have to just stick to your hobby for the original reason you picked up the camera in the first place and not to allow yourself to side-tracked by a lack of validation. It's important to seek out the opportunities leading to photos that you treasure and to remember that if others also enjoy your output that's a bonus, but not a healthy goal.
I'm not sure if Dan has experienced this (he may not have been concerned by what others think), but I believe it could be greatly beneficial to bring this mindset to the attention of readers so that if they find themselves feeling discouraged that they are aware of what's going on and how to deal with it constructively.
The point of this is that most people just don't really care about random art you did, but they care a lot if it's something personal. And it may take 1000 shots to get that right one.
I used to take a lot of macro shots of flowers as I traveled and did a lot of hiking in varying ecosystems. Playing with focal depth and framing was a great pleasure, and my shots were frequently something I was really proud of.
Then I had a roommate say in a pseudo off-hand passive aggressive way that she didn't understand nature photography - "I mean, it's not like the photographer made the flower, it was already there."
I really felt it undermined some of my best efforts, while clearly not understanding anything about photography. But then she also felt a $200 point and shoot was superior to all my oversized stuff.
I guess these days I'm too lazy to carry around more than an iPhone, and not interested in spending a lot of money on that hobby. I doubt that comment has had an impact on my passion for the hobby, but then again, I remember that comment with glaring clarity and it's been about 8 years.
Your camera takes great pictures.
Thank you. Your mouth gives great compliments.
"This dinner is excellent, you must have a nice oven."
Having said that, having worked with a photographer for a while, I don't consider what I do "real photography"... that woman thought about shots for months, planned them for weeks, made them in hours or over the course of days! Now that is actually what it says on the tin, "painting with light".
So without any bitterness, I simply cannot call what you and I do, no matter how much we enjoy it, the same thing. It would be like comparing writting a shopping list to "writing", to Kafka or something. It may seem to be the same act to the casual observer, but it really isn't. But then again, by that standard most professional photographers aren't photographers either. Hmm I'm rambling, sorry; that woman impressed me loads, what can I say. So obsessed, so good.
So I definitely do care what others think. But I think I lucked out by getting enough validation to get past the apathy. At least I've realized it's not just skill or technical merit in terms of getting noticed: much of it is just plain luck.
On a sidenote, participating in photosharing across Flickr and Tumblr has really helped destroy any solipsism I might have had...If attention/validation is something you care about, you have to work to get it like any other of the anonymous people on the Internet. This is not a mindset that most journalists realize when they try striking it on their own, without a masthead to tie their name to.