I don’t know about you, but I make a face whenever I hear or read someone telling me I’d better have a thick skin if I want to become a successful published author.
To be fair, different people interpret those words “thick skin” . . . differently.
To some, a thick-skinned person is someone who doesn’t let snarky comments, snubs, or scathing critiques of his work get to him.
Just another day as a writer. Already forgotten. No biggie.
To others, a thick-skinned person might just be someone who doesn’t let the sun go down on his anger. Other people’s jerkiness and insensitivity might get to him, but by the end of the day, he’s shrugged it off and is ready to jump right back into the fray – maybe even with a better sense of what he needs to work on.
He’s taken any valuable advice hidden behind the snark and venom and put it to work.
For some of us, that takes longer than a few hours. Or a day. Or . . . a year. But we get there, eventually. I hope.
It does raise a question, though: how thick-skinned does someone have to be to not only survive but to thrive as a writer?
It depends, I s’pose – at least partly – on a writer’s long-term goals. Someone who only wants to publish one novel or a memoir might not have as much need of thick skin as someone who intends to publish books and novels every year for as long as he’s able – and to make a decent living by his writing.
Anyone who’s read enough of this blog knows I tend to take things personally. I’m not proud of it. Eventually, I come around and admit my own weakness and tendency to take things too much to heart. I’m a work in progress, and I would not describe myself as thick-skinned – unless I were trying to get a laugh.
But, really, how thick-skinned do I have to be?
And to ask a related question, how confident do I have to be?
How confident are you, if you’ve read this far? Would you say your confidence in your own abilities is what helps you overcome the temptation to take other people’s jerkiness personally?
Or is it something else?
What is it that enables you to look beyond the pettiness of those who seem to enjoy tearing other people down to make themselves feel more powerful?
Is it self-confidence? Or is it trust in Someone who, every time you fall, patiently helps you up when you call Him?
I see no reason, really, to trust my own abilities, though I intend to make the most of them. They will fail, time and again, as they have before (many times). My mind and my heart will fail me again, as will the rest of my aging body. God never will.
Keeping this blog has helped me to expose my own tendency to take things too personally and to dwell on perceived slights (even when made by people who don’t even know me). It has opened my eyes to my own easily-injured pride, and that has been a blessing, at least to me.
Of course, exposing this fault to my readers has been a cause of pain. It’s never comfortable to realize that I’m still as self-centered as I ever was; it’s more painful when I consider that everyone who reads my blog is, no doubt, even more aware of that.
Is it possible, though, that by writing this blog and recovering from my own mistakes, I’ve been making my skin just a teensy bit thicker than it was before?
Is it measurable, though, this thickness of skin that we’re supposed to believe is essential to success as a writer?
Or is it just a matter of passing some sort of test – or series of tests – that life puts us through, one at a time (or maybe more than that)?
How do you know if you’re thick-skinned enough to “succeed”?
Maybe it comes down to the habit of dusting yourself off and getting back to it. Time and again. No matter how stained and tattered your clothes have become from repeated encounters with obstacles along the way. You just keep going. Because the goal is worth it all.
What do you think?