Thick skin required?
If I had a quid for every time a wizened writer advises a newbie to develop a thick skin in order to survive ‘writery world’, I would have enough money to, oh, let’s see… hire a hitman to deal with these ‘sages’.
Now, let me be clear. The ‘pros’ are correct. I don’t dispute that. If you want to do anything artistic, and share it, you are opening yourself up to critique and criticism (there is a difference, go look it up and make sure you’re dishing out the correct version).
If you want your work to be shared with others, eventually you are going to have to allow someone to read it to check that what you are unleashing upon the world isn’t absolute tosh. It’s true that you could self-publish and never get anyone to proofread it. However, considering there is already quite a lot of that out there already, I prefer the more standard route.
I have recently shared with some trusted friends and book-lovers, my first, complete short story. I forced myself to do this. I could have held on to that story forever but where is the pleasure or point in doing that? Whilst I try to write without feeling too pressured by the thought of a large audience, I am writing for someone. It might be just these three ladies for all I know, but if that is the case, it would be worth it.
Entering writing competitions
I have also entered a short story into some writing competitions. This is not because I think it is a work of literary genius. I think it’s pretty good (believe me, I forced myself to write that). I’m not that much of a doughnut that I’m going to enter competitions with writing I know is cack. But again I forced myself to do it, because I have to start putting my work out there sooner or later. Upon reflection, all this forcing is kind of cool, in a Star Wars feeling ‘The Force’ kind of way. I am a Jedi writer. Feel my power. I am also a numpty.
My competition entries may amount to nothing, but they have already proved to be worth it. If only for the scary and exciting moment I sat with my husband on the sofa and we pressed the ‘send’ key for my first ever writing competition entry together. It’s soppy and a bit vommy I know, but I hope I will never forget that moment. He grinned at me like a madman on acid, and I accordingly uttered a string of expletives. We are one classy couple.
As I await the outcomes of these competitions and the three readers’ analysis of my short story *, I am working on toughening up the old skin. I’m considering uber sunbedding or just asking this fella if he can lend me a jacket. He’s kind of a pro in the ‘skin trade’…
A softer skin is no bad thing
Back to my issues with constantly being told to toughen up my epidermis…
Yes, I must cultivate resilience in an industry that dishes out multitudes of rejections. I have heard the stories of how the most prolific writers were dealt thousands of rejections before they hit the big time. Some deserved it more than others *cough, J.K.Rowling* (don’t worry, she’s got a thick skin now she’s filthy rich and has multiple publications, she can take it).
I just don’t want to become heartless, lacking in emotion and unable to feel. If you don’t know me, I’m a ‘feeler’. Not in the sense of the inappropriate touching of others. What kind of readers do I have here?
I am an emotional bag of, well, emotions. Sometimes this is good. I am not a repressed potential serial killer like our ‘friend’ Buffalo Bill. Sometimes being an emotional waterfall is not so good when ‘DIY SOS’ comes on the television, or PMS pays a visit. My husband is advised to leave the house if both are occurring in tandem.
I think what I’m trying to say is that I want to be more able to deal with criticism and opinions, whilst not losing my ability to empathise, and feel either delighted or upset with what I hear. I want to express something.
I don’t want to lose being me. It’s seen me this far and it’s given me a ton of material for my writing. I would not, however, recommend depression and near-breakdowns as a source of artistic inspiration. Just watch Girl, Interrupted or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and you should be sorted.
So, I’ll get with the programme in the ‘Thick Skin Bootcamp’. I will be a good girl and perform my toughening up exercises daily. I will not, however, compromise on being an occasional emotional weirdo. I will use the lotion on MY skin a little to maintain the soft edges, although there’s no way Bill is reaping the benefits of my moisturising regime.
There is a cautionary tale in allowing the writer’s skin to become too thick. I present Exhibit A…
The Defence rests, your Honour.
*This post was initially written the day I sent my story to my chosen readers so the verdicts may now be in. The readers may also be buried in the desert somewhere. Not sure how that happened. Honest ‘guv.