2011 Writing Prep: Thick Skin

As a writer, it is perfectly normal to get shellacked on a weekly or monthly basis. Whether it’s rejection letters,  feedback from clients or mean-spirited comments on a blog or website there are plenty of days where the heart and ego will get bruised. Here’s the thing, it is the unfortunate by-product of success.

Many define a writer’s success by their annual revenue. Others measure success by a writer’s influence – both online and offline. I look at those things, but I also look at a less rosy and overlooked area of success – feedback. We’ve all felt the sting of a rejection letter and after so many, one may begin to wonder if they’ll ever make it. Sometimes the worse sting is a rejection letter after so many successful pitches. These occurrences are actually good for you, they toughen up that squishy writer heart which is important because:

This is a business.

You are creating a product to be sold for consumption. Yes, the product is a thoughtfully produced, creatively birthed and may contain the remnants of a few tears, but it is, still a product. You need to produce the product, deliver the product and bill for the product (and likely follow up on the billing). It is important to provide proper, enthusiastic customer service and be able to accept feedback because…

Feedback matters.

Feedback is usually the writer’s only way of knowing whether they are meeting the needs of their clients/readers. It is what we use to determine if we need to move in a new direction, stay the course or abandon ship and run for the hills (never that!). It is what keeps us profitable. Feedback, positive or negative, is important because you then know…

Your stuff is out there.

If your work wasn’t out there – queries to editors, blog posts, articles, book proposals – you wouldn’t get the rejection letters, negative comments or positive, helpful critiques. Do you know how many writers struggle just to make it that far? To write the query, to get someone to read the blog post to finish that hellish process known as book proposals? It’s where many a writing career dies. You made it past the blank page with the blinking, winking, taunting cursor. THAT is a victory. Someone received your words, read them and took the time to either give helpful advice or bang out some less than kind criticism, but that doesn’t dilute the fact that they read. Your. Work.

Thicker Skin = Critical Eye.

In order to become better writers we must evolve. We must challenge what we know about writing, how we write and what we write so we can continue to improve. Feedback prompts us to self-reflect. Most editors aren’t out to get you, their job is to know what works for their publication/site. They are helping you learn what their audience wants and when you deliver it, you elevate yourself to ‘go-to’ status. Developing a thick skin about comments, critiques and attacks allows for you to cast a critical eye on your work that will only make you better.

Not every piece of feedback is helpful, correct or necessary, but it is necessary for writers to develop a thick skin in order be able to determine the helpful nuggets of information from the junk.

How do you handle criticism and feedback?

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