I never really liked the term “thick skin.” The Urban Dictionary defines thick skin as the ability to withstand criticism and show no signs of any criticism you may receive getting to you. In the writing business, a writer is expected to have thick skin. After all, it is one of the few professions where you put your heart and soul out for the world to critique you in a very public way.
The reason I never liked the term is because many times it seems thick skin goes deeper, into a hardening of the heart. But if my heart is hard and calloused, how can I write from my heart? And how does one develop this “thick skin” that supposedly saves you from the hurt and doubt that comes from criticism?
Those were the thoughts I had this morning. I’ve been writing for years, I have two published books with another one soon to be released, and finaled in a couple awards.
I don’t have thick skin. What I do have is experience. It is not success that builds thick skin, it is disappointment. No matter how much you prepare for that first hard hitting review or intense criticism, it still hits hard. It is in that moment that you start to figure out who you really are as a writer.
Who do you write for? Why do you write? It is the answer to these questions that keep you going. This is your “thick skin.” No matter what other people say, you know deep down this is why you do what you do.
Who do I write for? Honestly? I write for myself. Yep. I don’t write for an audience, I don’t even write for God, although my writing becomes an outpouring of my questions, awe, and understanding of God.
Here’s why: audiences are fickle. Their tastes can change from year to year. If I were to tailor my writing after my audience, I would be chasing the wind and find disappointment when what I wrote doesn’t match up with what the current audience desires. If I am going to spend a couple hours a day for a year or more on a novel, I am going to write the story that burns inside of me. Granted, that may mean I don’t find an audience for my story, but I will have spent the better part of my time enjoying what I did.
Why do I write? I am a storyteller. I have these stories with complex characters thrown into awful situations and I have to figure out how they survive! As I start to write the story, I connect with the character. I feel what they feel. I understand their past and why they ended up in this situation. I ask the same questions they are asking.
This is my thick skin. When I receive a review that hurts, I remind myself why I write. No matter what the person says, he or she cannot take that away from me. When someone dislikes a character or scene, I take it in stride. I wrote for myself. I won’t please everyone. As long as I am pleased with the character or scene, then that is enough for me.
How about you? What is your “thick skin”? Why do you write and who do you write for?