If you’re a writer there are about a million and one ways you’re going to get your feelings hurt. Thick skin isn’t a luxury, it’s key to survival. If you’re going to be a professional writer, you need to know how to develop thick skin, because those who don’t have a higher chance of walking away from the writing game because it’s too emotionally risky.
I was born with the biggest, fattest, most sensitive feelings a girl could have. In some ways that can be great for a writer because we can intuit and write realistic emotions. On the other hand, the critiques and rejections and bad reviews can crush us in ways that hard-core people can’t fathom.
Most of the suggestions I have for developing thick skin center around adjusting your thinking and the way you approach your writing, but I have one practical key that seems obvious but bears mentioning.
**Thick skin develops by enduring potshots over time, kind of like a callus. That means it gets a little easier as you take more hits.**
That part ain’t fun.
So now that we have the practical part covered, let’s dig into our mindsets and see what we can shift around to help us develop thicker skin. Remember, thick skin doesn’t develop by chance, it develops by choice.
How to Develop Thick Skin as a Writer
Focus on your wins
Nothing trumps hurt feelings like confidence. There IS something you’re good at when it comes to writing. Take some time to focus on those areas instead of obsessing about the latest slew of rejections simmering in your in-box. It’s a great time to dig in and win back your confidence!
Separate your work from yourself
This is more difficult for fiction writers than any other group of people because so much of our inner life is poured onto the page. But you have to take a moment and realize your work is not YOU. It may feel like it…but it’s not.
Know that it’s not about you
As I mentioned in one of my posts on rejection, it’s not about you. It’s about the other person’s needs at that specific moment in time.
In regards to critiques, you have to acknowledge the motivation behind it—someone is trying to help you improve. And let’s face it, no piece of writing is perfect.
Realize where your worth really comes from
Your value as a person does not come from your writing. If you’re a Believer then you know your value comes from being made in the image of God. If you’re not a Believer, you know that your worth isn’t from your writing—determine where it does come from and you’ll be able to shake off what’s hurting you.
Develop a filter
Not every comment, criticism or rejection matters, and not everyone’s opinion is equally important. Decide who you really want to listen to and what kind of comments will actually help you. Remember, not everything that everyone says about your writing is a fact—I’d venture to guess that over 50% is opinion.
Know the difference.
Learn from other thick-skinned people
Every writer who’s been at this for a while has war stories. Talk to the people who have been there/done that and learn their tips and tricks for survival. You’ll realize that you’re not alone and there’s always a story that’s worse than what you’re going through. (One of my latest rejections came from an editor that said, “Ewww.” How’s that for a rejection?)
Decide to continue and become stronger
Purposing to continue with your writing is something you have to do ahead of time, because when the criticisms and rejections come it’s easy to feel so slapped down that quitting seems to be the best choice. But if you determine ahead of time that you’re going to stick it out despite the odds and the outcome, you’ll have an easier time powering through the hard parts.
True confession: my skin hasn’t been perfectly thickened…yet. I still have big fat feelings that get temporarily mashed every time I land a rejection. But thankfully I’ve learned more about how to handle criticism and move on. You know why? Because of the joy sprinkled in between, not to mention the fact that some rejections are actually helpful and constructive.
That’s probably the most important thing—focusing on the joy of writing. Even though the hard parts seem enormous at the time they occur, those bits are fleeting when you take in the bigger picture. It’s time to dig in, connect with your motivation and enjoy the journey.
How have you developed thicker skin?