The alligator in the photo reminds me that writers should be thick-skinned. Anyone who has succeeded in the writing world has developed thick-skin. Writers have to pull it out of their toolbox and put it on. Wearing it, nothing and no one can get in our way and bring us down. Sounds cool, right. Well, maybe not. It actually sounds hard. Really, really hard. It’s easier to cry into my alphabet soup.
There are probably more wonderful writers out there who have experienced zero success because they didn’t know how to put on thick skin. Thick skin helps turn rejection into success. Many best-selling authors have been rejected by more publishers than they have fingers and toes.
When to put on your thick skin
Any of these sound familiar?
When an agent or publisher face gets a deer in the headlights look when I pitch my story.
The sigh when an editor says. “Your opening line isn’t strong enough.”
Instead of crying or defending or ranting your thick skin shields your heart and you can say. “Thank you for your time.” or “Do you have a suggestion.”
Why it helps
Thick-skin helps you turn unpleasant things into success. I received an email from a publisher. This is the direct quote. “Your writing is not great.”
Without my thick armor I would have cried and threw my manuscript across the room and chided myself for being such a terrible writer. Great is what publishers are looking for. So, I took a writing course and got better. I still got rejection emails, but I kept at it.
My thick-skinned determination kept me submitting my manuscript for feedback. The first three chapters are the key: they need to shine. I sent them to a manuscript critique offering at a writers conferences. Drug them to my critique group. Each time the comments were more specific. They liked my story but…you have to pay close attention to the buts. A thick-skin helps you remain open to correction and instruction. After three editors told me the story actually started much later in my book I rewrote the first three as one chapter.
Another editor told me to delete all the chapters that were not in the POV of my main characters. I got rid of some interesting scenes. (Anyway they were interesting to me.)
A judge from a contest I entered said I had a lot of stuff going on. Too many characters doing too many things equals not good writing. The judge was confused by all the various action and who was doing what.
Each comment gave me something more to build on. Kinda like the story of the three little pigs. Each pig built his house but only the one built with bricks stood against the breath of the wolf. Wolf breath is often what it feels like when your book is not getting published and no matter how you rebuild your story the wolf breath of rejection collapses all your hard work.
I was thrilled to get a flash fiction published. This same magazine rejected all my other submissions. Even after making the corrections requested. How frustrating is that? I pulled on my thick skin so I could graciously ask (graciousness is part of the benefit of thick skin) the editor what I needed to do differently. We talked about it. But the gem he gave me because I took the time to ask was so encouraging. “Just because it doesn’t fit our publication needs doesn’t means someone else wouldn’t be interested in it.” Keep submitting until you get a yes.
Protects from reacting
I’m sure you’ve said something like the following:
Who do these jerks think they are?”
“They wouldn’t know good writing if it bit them in the….” You get my meaning.
Thick-skin protects your lips from saying offensive things. (At least in public.) What you say in the shower or to your spouse in the darkness of your bedroom doesn’t qualify under the thick-skin umbrella. It protects your heart from allowing critical opinions of agents, publishers, and fellow-writers from coming out your mouth and infecting all those around you.
It helps writers not compare their baby to everyone else’s. Comparison tinged with jealousy nurtures negativity and the result is a bitter writer.
Don’t get bitter but encourage
Bitterness repels people from you. People won’t want to work with you or recommend you to others. You shoot your writing career in the foot when you surrender to negativity. A thick-skin helps you cheer others on and offer a helping hand even when your own work is not getting recognition. Being the complaining, gossipy, faultfinding individual in your writing group, at a conference or on your blog only weakens your ability to succeed.
Grow some thick-skin by seeking out others who wear it well. Learn how they address issues and deal with rejection. Mimic their responses until they become your own. For me, prayer works wonders. It focuses me, reminds me God is the one in control and as I pray for those whose words or critiques bother me, I gain a new peace and perspective. Add thick-skin to your tool box and keep writing and submitting, writing and submitting until you reach your writing goals.
How do you grow thick-skin? Make a comment below, I’d love to hear about it.
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