Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge: Developing a thick skin

Developing a thick skin is basically a necessity for any artist, whether you’re a writer, a painter, a musician, or whatever. Not everyone likes the same things or shares the same opinions, and some people are very vocal about their opinions, good or bad.

It’s not easy to put your work out there and know that people are going to judge it and possibly tear it apart. As a writer, you may think you have the greatest story ever, but reviewers might rip it to pieces and give it terrible reviews. I speak from experience when I say this is painful. People say not to take it personally - it’s your work that’s being judged, not you, but it can be really hard not to take it personally, especially when some people are just plain nasty. You’ll likely hear most writers say that their books are their babies, and for me that’s true. Writing is something you pour your heart and soul into - not to mention endless lonely hours in front of a screen or notebook - and because it’s such a personal thing, it can be hard to separate yourself from it.

Here’s what I’ve learned: basically, you need to make up your mind not to let things bother you. If you’re proud of your work, that’s what really matters. Even if you have a very small following, that’s better than nothing, right? Ever since Blue Sky Days came out in January, I’ve obsessively checked the ratings on GoodReads. The initial reviews were amazing - I had so many 5 star reviews, I was floored and excited and incredibly humbled. Then the negative reviews started coming in, and even though I knew they were inevitable - whether because people just didn’t enjoy the story, or because some people are just contrary and give everything a negative review - it was difficult for me to watch my star ratings drop and read the negative comments.

I’m a pretty sensitive person in general, but I’m very proud of myself for learning to develop a thicker skin. I’ve decided I’m going to have to stop reading the reviews. It’s as simple as that. The negative reviews are basically all the same, and I don’t need to hear in a million different ways that the story had issues. I see that now. I’m trying not to let it haunt me. If I could go back and change those things, I would, but there’s not much I can do about it now except take it as a learning experience - hone my craft, work harder, become a better writer, and appreciate that although there are negative reviews, there are also a lot of people who loved the book and who were deeply touched by it. Those are the reviews I reread when I’m feeling down or when I need to remember that I’m living my dream.

On a lighter note: D is also for Downton Abbey, one of my current obsessions. I just finished watching season one on Vision TV (in Canada) last Wednesday, and tonight is the premier of season two - woohoo! I'm so hooked! I love how we get to see inside the characters' lives and discover that scandalous things happen whether you're rich or poor. It's just pure brilliance in my opinion. Anyone else watch?

Do you consider yourself thick-skinned? Why or why not? What’s your advice to other people when it comes to developing a thicker skin?


  1. I'm probably pretty thin-skinned, at least if it is about something I'm insecure about already. I know I need to toughen up. Great lesson and post, thanks!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  2. Great post, Marie. Developing a thick skin is tough. I'm planning to send my novel to some very blunt and honest beta readers I know (my writer friends are all good at being cruel to be kind) and I'm hoping that dealing with their feedback will be the first step to developing a thick skin.

  3. I'm very thick-skinned when it comes to my writing. The rest of the time my skin needs work. :)

    ---Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  4. I spent many years taking rejections as a slight against me. I write personal essays, so when they are rejected, I feel as if the editor is saying "I don't like you." Nowadays, I just let it roll off my skin and file that rejection away with all the others. Whenever I do get an acceptance, it feels great and I know I worked hard for it.

  5. As a rule,I consider myself thick-skinned, but it's different when it comes to my book. My writing is like a direct route to my soul.

    I'm so jealous. In South Africa, Downton Abbey season two only starts in June. :-(

  6. I'm working on my thick skin too. Haven't had too many bad reviews yet, but the ones I've had have stung. Maybe one day I'll reach a point where I stop reading my reviews, but for now, I like seeing what ppl say, both good and bad. If it's bad, I'll just get away from the computer and rant to hubby. That's part of his job anyways. ;)

  7. I think anyone who writes and wants to be published quickly learns that in order to survive you have to develop a thick skin! We may not like the negativity and of course we take it personally - after all, it's our 'baby' that's being criticised. However, if we stand back and put things more into perspective we can sometimes see the positive side - where to improve on plot/character, what works and what doesn't. Then again, there are some agents out there that always couch things in terms that could be taken adversely - them's the breaks, kid!
    And don't listen to some of these top authors who seem to get picked up straight away - I DO NOT BELIEVE IT!
    Yes, it's galling to see some 'celebrity' get a book-deal thrust under their noses! However - c'est la vie, as they say! :-/

    (BTW - thanks for your comments on my blog! ) :-)

    SueH I refuse to go quietly!

  8. Very true! I think building a thick-skin comes with experience. I've got a pretty thick one, because I'm so used to have my writing edited for my day job.

  9. Some very good points in this post - interesting read.


  10. I usually take things pretty well. I have always considered myself laid back and able to let things slide down my back. I'm not a writer (other than my blog), but respect those of you who put yourself out there as authors.


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