Monday, January 31, 2011

The Case of the Eggshell Skin

When I first started writing I didn’t want anyone to read my work. My stories said too much about me. They exposed my inner self. I didn’t want people to judge my writing because I felt as if they judged me instead.

I had skin made of eggshells. Aware of my fragility, I used to seek only approval so that I’d avoid the chance of cracks. It got me nowhere.

Now that I’ve been writing for a few years, my skin has grown a thick rhino layer. How did I do this? My thinking changed. I wanted to improve. I wanted my best work out there. I wanted to be proud of my words. And that meant manning up. I had to let other people read my work, judge my work, tell me my work sucked. I couldn’t allow rejection to break me. I needed to learn. I needed to accept that I can’t please everyone.

Of course, my rhino skin isn’t completely impervious. I still have days I let the doubts creep in. But that’s because I’m human… and a writer.

What’s your skin made of? How do you keep your skin thick? How do you handle criticism and rejection?

40 comments:

  1. I can relate to this post. I'm no longer an eggshell but I wish I had even tougher skin. Sometimes a specific critique or rejection will get me down for a few days.

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  2. I've never shown my writing to anyone except one person, and only one story at that--I'm not that much of an eggshell, usually, but I just don't feel confident enough yet to show my writing to more people. Maybe once I've finished and revised/edited my current novel.

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  3. I'd like to think that my skin has grown a layer or three by now but I still tingle and hurt every so often - but not as much!! I guess it's age and a peace that comes with this!

    Take care
    x

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  4. Theresa, that's only natural. We are writers. I think it's part of the job description. ;)

    Golden, I truly believe that the more people a writer shows their work to, the more that writer will improve (and the more confident he/she will become).

    Old Kitty, hmm, you might be onto something there.

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  5. I've come to realize that I can't please all the people all the time, and that's okay. I hope my writing pleases God. If He complains, then I have a problem :)

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  6. J & A Knickerbocker, That's my wish too: that my writing pleases God. That's extremely important to me :)

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  7. I have a much harder skin than I used to! It helped once I realized that a helpful critique wasn't a reflection on ME, or even on my writing as a whole. It was simply someone pointing out things that they think can make the story better. And often, they're right!

    Thanks for sharing this.

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  8. I think you would be the only one, Lyndy, whom I would let read my work before querying :)

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  9. I'm beyond eggshell, pretty much rhino but with a few thinner spots around the eyes and joints. LOL If I feel a little bummed, it's usually because I know the critiquer is right and it means I have some major revision ahead of me. Fooey! LOL

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  10. I have pretty thick skin. That said, I still have my moments of doubt, I think it goes with the territory.

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  11. Other than writing what I post on blogger and in my journal of notes and poetry that is about it for writing. I am still a little fragile but tougher skinned that I have been. I am learning to lean on God so disappointment doesn't creep in..

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  12. I prefer alligator myself. :) I believe by human nature we seek approval but I also believe the smallest of words can melt a heart. Criticism is there to remind us of this fact. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  13. WOW! I think most writers can relate to your post. I used to have soft skin. I took the critiques very personal. My mentors told me I had to develop thicker skin quickly if I wanted to survive in this industry. Now, I take critiques and criticism with a grain of salt. I've develop an alligator's skin. LOL! As a matter of fact, I wrote a post (one of my first) about this subject. Thanks for the reminder.
    And yes, we're entitled to have those self-doubting days: it only makes us human.
    Keep writing!
    Claudia
    http://www.claudiadelbalso.blogspot.com/

    P.S. I am your latest follower ;)

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  14. I think my skin is a kaleidoscope of patches - egg shells, rhino, rubber, steel, feather... I'm working on it though!

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  15. I look at everything as a learning experience. Everytime I get a critique I try and learn something...

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  16. It usually depends on the project for me. Sometimes, I'm really confident of what I've written, other times, I'm not. And when I'm not confident about it, it's harder to take critique.

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  17. I think I have fairly thick skin, and I've had to learn to really take floggings lately after joining AW and finding people surprisingly (yet refreshingly) honest. I think it'll be a different matter to experience agent rejection, but I haven't had that experience yet. ;)

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  18. Shallee, in the case of critiques, that's very true :)

    Dezzy, oh wow...I'm honoured. Thank you. That means a lot to me.

    Carol, hahaha oh yes I can sooo relate to that! I have this brilliant critiquer who also makes me say fooey ;)

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  19. Bish, absolutely. It's a writing thing.

    Sunnycalgirl, Yep, God is a great support. The best, in fact.

    Jules, alligator skin! Fancy AND tough! Oh so true about those small words that melt the heart.

    Claudia, I think the change is a sign of growth.

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  20. Jemi, hehe there's some interesting patches you have there.

    Sharon, absolutely!

    Amber, I think I'm the opposite. When I'm confident, I blind myself and think I don't need any changes. Then someone critques it and I'm proved wrong. Hehehe.

    Trisha, agent rejection is a different kettle of fish. That's when it really gets difficult because there is often so little feedback (in my experience).

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  21. These days I handle criticism and rejection well as long as it is not meant for malicious or hurtful intent. I don't like it, but if I understand why it has been given and it helps me to grow then it's a good thing. I write because I want somebody to read it-- always have.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

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  22. There isn't anything wrong with being sensitive-- but to a point. We all have to remember crits help us improve!

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  23. I was that same way--afraid to have people read my work for fear they would crush me.
    After changing my thoughts too, that I can only learn by someone pointing out what is needed, made the difference. I love someone to share what they know in writing and show me how to improve:)

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  24. Arlee, I haven't experienced anything malicious or hurtful yet -- I did when I won an art contest once and that wasn't fun, but I didn't worry for too long because, well, I won ;) Not looking forward to it when/if it happens over my writing though.

    Samantha, yes, absolutely. To a point, is fine.

    Terri, for sure. I get so much more out of writing when I share too.

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  25. Oh, I so relate, Lynda. Maybe at the beginning we need that protection. At some point we grow beyond it. Like you said, an attitude adjustment. The first rejection I got, I cried. The next day I told my husband, "Well, now that's over, it won't sting so much the next time. I'm in the game. I'm not giving up."

    Every submission is a shot at feedback or a yes. Both are rare. But if someone says, 'send us something else', that means you don't completely suck. I was lucky to learn from another writer the levels of rejection and how to interpret it.

    The short stories improve my writing, my pitching and thicken my skin. All in preparation ...

    I know it seems scary, but I think submitting is a win-win. And I've come to rely on getting honest feedback from my crit partners.

    I used to cringe. Now I want it with both barrels blazing.

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  26. Now that I am actively querying a book my skin is getting very very thick!

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  27. Hey Lynda, I followed you here, lovely to meet you!

    It is a journey, isn't it. I must admit, I still take a deep breath before I look at anyone's comments on my WIP, but that's so much better than when I first started out writing. And I definitely agree, wanting to be the best writer possible makes it much easier to take other people's comments on board.

    Rach

    PS - I used to live in Sydney, just moved to Canberra :O Nice to see a fellow Aussie out and about ;)

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  28. It's definitely important to remember that criticism is supposed to help us. It's just too bad that so may people feel it's an excuse to deride and ridicule other people's work.

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  29. I want to be a rhino, but since no one has really reviewed a large portion of my work yet, I'm probably an eggshell with the heart of a rhino.

    What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and that is probably true with critiques. We can't improve unless we know what's broken.

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  30. Nice post. I have a thick skin, too, but it didn't start out that way. Like yours, it developed over time. I think it helps knowing rejection is just part of this--it's nothing personal.

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  31. M Pax, I love what you said to your husband. Because of that go get 'em attitude, you'll definitely get published if you aren't already.

    Tabitha, my thoughts are with you for the querying.

    Rachael, welcome! I hope Canberra is a whole lot cooler than it is in Sydney at the mo.

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  32. Hanny, derision and ridicule doesn't help anyone. It's a shame it happens.

    Kari, I heard rhino hearts are pretty tough too :)

    Dawn, exactly. it's nothing personal.

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  33. Man, I remember the first critique I got! It definitely stung. Then I made the same decision you did--I wanted to improve, I wanted to get better, and I know this is the best way. So, even if it's not always the best news, I know it's in my best interests!

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  34. I show my writing to a group of individuals. Depending on the genre I might show it to different people that it relates to. I used to not show a thing but the more I feel I grow the more I'm able to handle.

    I think my skin is growing thicker but I know I'll always have those weak moments. After all, you can't love what everyone says.

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  35. I think of writing as a learning experience and I have this one life to be on this writing journey. So, getting other people's eyes on my writing and hearing their thoughts makes enriches the journey. That said, I always feel a nervous tingle when I send my WIP off to my critique partners.

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  36. I know exactly how you feel. I have always put my work out there for approval and rushed off with tail between my legs when people have said harsh things or publishers have returned the MS's, but the more I read the more I realise that a growing a rhino hide is the only way to survive in this business. Good luck :O)

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  37. I definitely relate to this post. I am slowly shedding my egg shell skin and exchanging it for a thicker rhino one. Thats the only way we can improve, learn and survive in the writing world.

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  38. Amie, yes exactly. It's in our best interests :)

    Jen, those weak moments are inevitable, but they don't have to break us :)

    Paul, writing is definitely a learning experience -- one that never stops. There's always something more we can learn. Oh, and I don't think that nervous tingle ever goes away.

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  39. Madeleine, In the early years I almost quit because my skin was too thin. Silly me.

    Rachna, so true!

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  40. I love this analogy! I can totally identify! I'd like to think I'm stronger than an egg shell, but I'm sure it's no rhino yet. :) I saw you highlighted on another blog and am following now...I just had to keep reading each post I could--I love your blog!

    ~Carla
    carla-jansen.blogspot.com

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