Saturday, April 21, 2012
A to Z: Skin--Thick or Thin?
You a writer? How many times have you heard, "grow a thicker skin"?
Have you succeeded? Does criticism or--gasp--rejection now slide off your back like so much water off a duck? Really?
Oh, wait. You mean you've stopped caring? You gave up and now you're so uninvested in your own work that a harsh critique or a rejection letter (email, whatever) leaves you unmoved?
Why? Because that critic, as idiotic and numbskull as he/she may be, is your teacher. And by turning a deaf ear on them, you're only shooting yourself--and your story--in the foot.
Not every critique is valid. Not every suggestion has merit, not every comment is worth pursuing. But when a critic raises a point, it's always worth considering. And how are you going to consider anything if you're so busy concentrating on the perfect shrug?
I'm all for thick skins. All I'm saying is don't confuse thick skin with not caring. Not caring will get you exactly nowhere.
What is a thick skin, then, if it's not about not caring?
A thick skin is what allows you to get that tough critique, that rejection letter, and learn from it. It's what enables you to become a better writer. Because, we all know (yes, you do know--deep down there, that little voice you keep shushing--listen to it) that, besides those 10,000 hours we need to put in at the keyboard and the zillions of books, both classics and how-to's, it's critique that makes us better.
When every bit of feedback that isn't outright dying-right-here praise sets you off into a tirade or tears, guess what? You're not listening.
A thick skin entails understanding that story comes first. Not you, not your ego, not validation of your talent. That's for your cheerleaders to provide, and while it feels great, it's not making you grow.
You want real ego validation? Try winning a Pulitzer (when they hand them out, that is). Try being a NYT bestseller. Try getting an email from your agent that says your book is going into its third printing. Or, if you choose the self-pub route, try watching your sales increase exponentially every time you check Amazon out. Try a Google search with the name of your book and finding complete strangers raving about your book on their blogs or Twitter.
Salivating yet? All that--and more--is yours for the taking. Who do you have to kill, you ask? Well...
Yourself. Or rather, your thin-skinned self.