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Bubastes
11-22-2006, 10:21 PM
Writers need a thick skin to survive. Was there a single event or critique that helped you develop yours?

The turning point for me was when a reader said one of my personal essays was "slightly painful to read." It stung, but afterward I realized that as long as I did the best work I could and kept improving it, other people's opinions of my work was beside the point. Especially after publication.

MajorDrums
11-22-2006, 10:36 PM
when i sent out a partial of my nonfiction work to an agency in the UK, and they wrote, "NO," in red ink block letters with a circle around it on the top of the page. it made me realize that no matter how personal the material is that i am writing about, the people who want to represent good work have to look at things with a healthy dose of objectivity. it reminded me that this is a business first and foremost.

alleycat
11-22-2006, 10:37 PM
Having an older brother.

I still have two of the scars.

TrainofThought
11-22-2006, 10:38 PM
My whole life has given me thick skin and a stand-offish attitude (not on AW though). Bartending. :D

Added: I did have a bad critique of my prologue where they ripped it apart. At first, I thought Bastids and then I completely changed it. I feel better now.

MidnightMuse
11-22-2006, 10:40 PM
Two older sisters did it for me - especially when the oldest writes, too. Having my work compared to hers by every teacher I had (that knew her first) taught me how to buck it up and learn to take criticism with grace and style.

:D

Shadow_Ferret
11-22-2006, 11:06 PM
I have never developed a thick skin. Every setback, every rejection makes me reevaluate what the hell I'm doing here.

ChaosTitan
11-22-2006, 11:08 PM
Working in retail.

Toothpaste
11-22-2006, 11:52 PM
Being an actor.

Simon Woodhouse
11-23-2006, 12:01 AM
A publisher in America accepted my book, then a couple of months later turned round and said they didnít want it because I was in New Zealand. I'd been in NZ all along, right from the moment I sent them the MS, and they new it as well. This really p*ssed me off. If they'd just said 'we donít want it now because we think it's not very good', I wouldn't have been so bothered. But by saying yes and then saying no, and using the fact that I wasn't in America as a reason, really got to me.

I came pretty close to chucking the whole thing in. But I had a word with myself, gritted my teeth, and sent out another load of query letters. Having been messed about like this showed me what I was up against in the publishing industry. Now my skin is thicker and my eyes are wide open.

eldragon
11-23-2006, 12:25 AM
I'm more like Shadow-Ferret. I give up too easily.

I wrote an erotic story that I thought came out very well. (My husband agreed,;) ) and I submitted it to a paying markets ad on this website. The woman said she wanted to buy my story and feature it and blah blah blah. I was thrilled!

I never heard anything else from her. She never returned my emails, either.

I haven't even looked at that erotic story since.

jbal
11-23-2006, 12:27 AM
I'll have to secon chaostitan. Being a musician too, and a pretty crappy one, I can take any criticism.

WerenCole
11-23-2006, 01:15 AM
Mom

engmajor2005
11-23-2006, 01:17 AM
1. My senior thesis proffessor. She accused me (subtly, but accused me none-the-less) of plagiarism. I had just written an especially well-worded sentence. I had no choice but to change the sentence. Oh, and she was obsessed with Nabokov. I had the same prof my junior year, and had to do a big project for her. It was a collection of short stories, and she compared every single one of them to Nabokov. To this day, I never miss an opportunity to call Nabokov a chain-smoking, egotistical, pedophile.

2. My (now defunct) blog caught the attention of a small press editor, and he asked for an essay for an anthology detailing the political and social movement opposing Bush. I spent a couple of weeks writing a memoir about how hard it is to be liberal in the reddest of red counties, getting it juuuust right. I zipped it off and got a few e-mails about how the project was progressing and it should be on the shelf by Summer or Fall of '06. In August I e-mailed the guy, asking how things were coming. He said he should come out soon. The next e-mail I sent, this time in October, asking if it would come out soon, has gone unanswered.

3. The very first short story I submitted was to Analog. I thought that none of my previous stuff was good enough, sat down, and whipped out the shittiest story ever written. No lie, when people ask me what's the worst story I've ever read, I reply "Blood Pills by M. Brandon Robbins." After the story was in the mail, I re-read and realized how bad it was. When I got the rejection letter, I wasn't upset; what upset was that I knew that I deserved it.

Carrie in PA
11-23-2006, 01:18 AM
I don't have a thick skin. But I can put on a perfect act, then go home and cry. :)

Scarlett_156
11-23-2006, 01:31 AM
Getting beat up by skinheads and then seeing the same bunch of guys over and over at shows where we did sound for other bands for like YEARS.

Linda Adams
11-23-2006, 01:44 AM
Actually, on hindsight, I think it was a single critique of the book. It was one of the first ones we got, and it was scathing. I remember reading the four or so pages of comments she gave back and found myself really getting angry with them. I set them down for a couple hours and realized that I wasn't angry so as much picking up her anger--the critique was very, very angry. She didn't just not like the book; she despised it. Evidently, she couldn't understand why, so she attacked it. It turned out she was vehemently anti-gun, and well, it was a thriller, and it was set during the Civil War. Guns were kind of important in the story. She stopped reading right on the page where one character drew a gun on another (which, despite all the revisions, is still in the book, by the way).

Since then, if I hear someone reacting badly--and there's been four or five--I know it's not the book; it's something that got under their skin.

Mom'sWrite
11-23-2006, 01:53 AM
I have two older brothers. When they weren't trying to skewer each other they would turn their evil imaginations on me. The first one to make me cry won the game. They stopped playing this hideous game when I turned 7 and I learned how to make them cry.

SherryTex
11-23-2006, 01:58 AM
adolescence, high school english teacher, high school boys, high school friends, living alone, living with roommates, having a class in which you are quite certain you are the dumbest in the room, having a professor who is quite certain you are the dumbest in the room, first year teaching, graduate school, seven+kids, moving, life gives you lessons on how thick your skin has to be, but every once in a while, you forget. And that forgetting is also a good thing.

I'm actually an easy target. It hurts to be rejected, even if it is deserving.
The important thing is to keep at it, even when it hurts.

Kate Thornton
11-23-2006, 02:12 AM
Well, rejection hurts and there's no way around that. I don't have a thick skin so much as I have a protective set of armor that I wear when I think I'll need it. But I forget it sometimes, too. And the arrows can still get in.

TrickyFiction
11-23-2006, 02:58 AM
I don't have a thick skin so much as I have a protective set of armor that I wear when I think I'll need it. But I forget it sometimes, too. And the arrows can still get in.

Same here. When I'm in a critique group or somewhere I expect to get negative feedback and even want it, I know to wear the metal skin. But, if my husband reads something and tells me it's cheesy before I'm ready to hear it, I'll come crashing down.

Cat Scratch
11-23-2006, 03:28 AM
Reading my first bad review in the LA Weekly for a play I wrote. I'd had glowing reviews from other papers/magazines, so this one just stung. I try to remind myself that upon research I discovered that the reviewer was himself a failed playwright, but still...he just HATED it. But I got over it, and each rejection is a little easier.

But still not easy. About a year ago I was chatting casually with a literary agent at a writer's event and he asked me about my book. I already have an agent, so wasn't trying to pitch to him, and yet he told me my idea was crap and that it was boring. Um, thanks. My agent doesn't think so. I didn't say as much, though, I just thanked him for his feedback and walked away. It stung, though, particularly since I wasn't looking for his opinion to begin with--I was chatting with him because I know his wife.

TrickyFiction
11-23-2006, 03:56 AM
Working in retail.

Oh, yeah. That'll do it.

Dave.C.Robinson
11-23-2006, 04:37 AM
Taking escalations in a call center.

People yelling at you because they didn't think something through and now they think they've lost tens of thousands of dollars and want you to fix it-- and give them the money.

Take 500 of those and see how much anything else will bother you.

Beyondian
11-23-2006, 04:46 AM
When I was very young, I told my mother I wanted to write a novel. She told me I was just copying my older brother. This put me off writing for some time. (In her defense, I did tend to copy my brother when I was younger)
Then, when I was about fifteen, my uncle asked to see a story I had been writing last time he had seen me.
Instead of asking me to get my story, my family passed him some of my older brother's work. (I still don't know why.)
Both incidents have remained with me, but helped me to develop a thick skin when regarding my work. It also helped having a wonderful father, who while the best and most fantastic guy, has a way of helping you see the flaws in things.

Bubastes
11-23-2006, 05:53 AM
Taking escalations in a call center.

People yelling at you because they didn't think something through and now they think they've lost tens of thousands of dollars and want you to fix it-- and give them the money.

Take 500 of those and see how much anything else will bother you.

Oh yeah, work will do that. Being screamed at by law firm partners for not checking the right box on some form or being told that I'll be sued for malpractice because I left out a comma in a 30-page document has helped me develop Teflon skin. Workplaces are such f'ed up environments.

Anaparenna
11-23-2006, 05:54 AM
Taking escalations in a call center.

Take 500 of those and see how much anything else will bother you.


Oh, yes. And I'll dare to assume the poster meant 500 per week, at the least. Then, make it customer service for an airline. And make it five years' worth. :) Some call them "escalations." We called them "irates."

Given the current situation, I am so, so happy I don't work for the airlines anymore.

My thick skin moment as a writer?

Marion Zimmer Bradley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Zimmer_Bradley)red-inked the entire first page of my short story sub to her magazine, then threatened (in scrawling script) to nominate me for the Bulwer-Lytton award (http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/). She was (I found out later), famous for this sort of harsh critique. I still have the letter.

The best thing about this thick-skin moment? She was right. I learned.

Dave.C.Robinson
11-23-2006, 06:02 AM
Oh, yes. And I'll dare to assume the poster meant 500 per week, at the least. Then, make it customer service for an airline. And make it five years' worth. :) Some call them "escalations." We called them "irates."

Given the current situation, I am so, so happy I don't work for the airlines anymore.

My thick skin moment as a writer?

Marion Zimmer Bradley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Zimmer_Bradley)red-inked the entire first page of my short story sub to her magazine, then threatened (in scrawling script) to nominate me for the Bulwer-Lytton award (http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/). She was (I found out later), famous for this sort of harsh critique. I still have the letter.

The best thing about this thick-skin moment? She was right. I learned.

I think your "irates" are what we call "screamers." An escalation is when they finish yelling at the rep and now want to yell at their supervisor. Taking an escalation is being the supervisor they transfer that call to. :)

KiwiChick
11-23-2006, 06:13 AM
I think I have a thin skin in just about everything except writing. If you don't like me, I'll be absolutely crushed, but I'm getting pretty good at hiding it. :D

When did I get a thick skin about my writing? When I read the responses some other writers made to harsh critiques, often to the effect of "My writing is too wonderful and you're just a bunch of mean people to not say so". I thought OMG, I'm never going to be that person.

KiwiChick

Anaparenna
11-23-2006, 06:14 AM
I think your "irates" are what we call "screamers." An escalation is when they finish yelling at the rep and now want to yell at their supervisor. Taking an escalation is being the supervisor they transfer that call to. :)

Ha! Isn't it hilarious how we all speak the same "customer service" language in different terms? :D

I was the supervisor who got the "screamers." I think your designation of them is much more accurate than the one we were allowed to voice. This airline was always polite. The agents would say, "I have an irate on the line for you."

And then we'd tell them the exact same thing the agent told them. But because we were supervisors, we got much more subdued and agreeable responses.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
11-23-2006, 06:37 AM
The first time I stumbled into TIO...

icerose
11-23-2006, 08:34 AM
Personal toughening. 3rd grade I had some "friends" who other "friends" would tell them that if they played with me they wouldn't be their friends, so I would lose both. Good riddens. Joys of growing up in a poor family in a small town.

Second time was fifth grade when one of three friends told me that she had just been using me and now that she couldn't get what she wanted from me, she hated me. Then followed by the next two years of tauntings and bullying by her and her "new" friends all while my parents became chronically ill and my home life turned to a pile of crap.

Then of course a teacher telling me to give up now because poor kids don't have a future.

Writing toughening came through my first critique, at first I felt that flash of anger and hurt and disdain but I stepped away for a week or so then reread it and understood what it was all about and have loved them ever since, followed by the PA fiasco so not much gets to me in either personal life or writing life since these incidents.

Shadow_Ferret
11-23-2006, 08:39 AM
Wow. You people have led some rough lives!

I still have my innocence. :)

MidnightMuse
11-23-2006, 10:27 AM
I still have my innocence. :)

He said while wearing his jail-ferret outfit :D

limitedtimeauthor
11-23-2006, 11:01 AM
I don't have a thick skin. But I can put on a perfect act, then go home and cry. :)

Absolutely! This is me to a tee.

And yet, when I ask someone for a critique, that's what I want. Obviously not the harsh, angry, flying off the handle for some inexplicable reason kind; but a real critique with details. I can take that, because to me, it's the highest kind of support - someone genuinely helping you make it perfect. (Like my favoritest, most wonderful, sweet English teacher. I miss her.)

ltd.

Cav Guy
11-23-2006, 07:11 PM
Oh, yeah. That'll do it.

Agreed. Working retail will definitely give you a thick skin.

I've had the added "reinforcement" (if you want to call it that) of having my writing totally ignored by everyone in my family (including my wife). They don't read it, don't seem to want to read it, and show no interest in what I've had published. That in and of itself gives you a pretty thick skin.

Sean D. Schaffer
11-25-2006, 12:21 AM
Writers need a thick skin to survive. Was there a single event or critique that helped you develop yours?

The turning point for me was when a reader said one of my personal essays was "slightly painful to read." It stung, but afterward I realized that as long as I did the best work I could and kept improving it, other people's opinions of my work was beside the point. Especially after publication.


If any one event gave me a thicker skin insofar as my writing goes, I think that event would be when I first, under my old username, submitted my works for critique at SYW a couple years ago. I told the critiquers to be brutal in their reviews. I found that my writing was nowhere near good enough for publication as it was and that it definitely could be improved upon. The fact that my work was given the "I didn't like it" treatment by real writers who know what they're doing, combined with the attitude on my part of "How can I improve my writing and make it salable?", really made a major difference in my acquiring a thick skin.

This, however, was only part of the equation. I have been learning the lessons over time that I needed to learn, and I don't think my thick skin is totally developed yet where certain parts of my writing are concerned.

But at least I'm learning, and a step in the right direction is a good thing, regardless of how small a step it happens to be.

Jaycinth
11-25-2006, 01:39 AM
It takes a while to grow a thick skin.
First I got to be the bi-racial child of two folks involved in the civil rights movement who decided I should break the color barrier at a particular school. Then we moved and they did it again. (Let me add that I loved my parents, they just didn't understand that I was a shy child and I really wanted to be invisible).
My cousins grew up in a family where merciless teasing was the norm. I got to live with them every summer for 5 years. Then, when I thought that was over...they moved here and went to school with me.
Fast Food. Retail sales.
. . .and the final building block was a wonderfully cynical, woman-hating, deviant that I married simply to allow him to make himself seem more important at my expense.

DING DING DING....you might try to hurt my feelings but all you will really succeed in doing is to P.O. me.

PeeDee
11-25-2006, 01:51 AM
Perspective. THey aren't rejecting me, they're rejecting my story, and they're not even rejecting it in the negative sense. When they say "it isn't right for us, right now," that's what they mean.

When I don't like a book or a story and I stop reading it, I don't wish a pox on the author. The author is probably a very wonderful person (I may even know them.) I just don't like this one thing they've done. Likewise, the editors of magazines/publishers.

That said, I grew up in a lot of different places, with a lot of different people, none of whom were especially literate. That tends to toughen you up. I have a certain threshhold above which I take absolutely zero crap from anyone, and below that I tend to be fairly benign.

Mostly, rejection letters send me off and make me get some good writing done.

MyFirstMystery
11-25-2006, 02:33 AM
Working as a corporate headhunter. In most "sales" professions you learn that getting rejected about 100 times is simply the price of admission for the one time out of 100 you'll hit a big win.

I expect rejection as part of the game. It still stings sometimes though. I think that most of the best things in life are worth a little pain though. Writing is definitely right up there.

MFM

SpookyWriter
11-25-2006, 02:34 AM
I'm too lazy to submit my work, so rejection doesn't sting at all.

OmenSpirits.com
11-25-2006, 03:27 AM
Never had that thick skinned moment because I always looked at my writing in the beginning as if I was still learning the craft. Hell, I said that my earlier work wasn't great, it was good, just not great.

But no, I never couldn't take critizism.

ModoReese
11-27-2006, 07:43 AM
Practicum at the local daily where the editor made me watch the edits of my copy (or worse, the lack of edits since that meant a rewrite was coming). He just couldn't understand why this would be hard - watching the edits should make me a better writer. After the first few painful experiences, I saw his point - and my writing did get better, even if it continued to get cut down to nothing.

Huge redeeming factor: Being told it wasn't really "that bad".

Of course, this applies to my non-fiction work only.

Disclaimer: This editor is now my husband. :)

M

JeanneTGC
11-27-2006, 08:55 AM
I've worked in marketing for the past 20+ years, and for the first 2/3rds of that, I was in direct marketing. You learn, fast, that the no's don't matter. In direct marketing, you EXPECT to get a high rejection rate, you plan for it. For some campaigns, less than 1% response rate (meaning "send me a partial" in writer's terms) meant that you were going to clean up, because out of those response numbers, you'd get a percentage who would go to the next step ("requesting the full") and out of those, a percentage would buy ("offer representation", "take your book for publication").

So, while I personally don't enjoy rejection (at all :D ), I just put my marketing hat on when the rejections come and remind myself that I don't NEED all of them. I just need ONE magazine editor or ONE agent or ONE publisher out of ALL the many out there to love my stuff. That's better odds than any direct marketing campaign I ever worked on.

Keep the faith, and keep your numbers high. :Hug2:

Southern_girl29
11-27-2006, 09:16 AM
Going to work at the newspaper where I'm currently lifestyles editor. My associate editor is brutal. When I first started to work there, she was even more so. She's been in the business forever; in fact, she laid out the front page for the issue when Kennedy was assassinated. My first piece I wrote after I went to work there was for the magazine she puts out each month. She called me in her office and said, "This is crap and you know it. Rewrite it."

I did, until I had it right. She kept an original copy of it and marked it up for me after I had finished the rewrite to her satisfaction. She told me I wouldn't learn anything if she did it for me. She was so tough. She made me cry on more than one occasion. But I learned from her. I owe everything I know about the newspaper business to her and our business editor, who isn't as tough but almost.

Lyra Jean
11-27-2006, 09:22 AM
I don't have a thick skin. But I can put on a perfect act, then go home and cry. :)

I'm the same way Carrie with pretty much everything including writing.

pepperlandgirl
11-27-2006, 06:59 PM
I wrote fanfic (well, I still write fanfic a bit, though not as much). People would leave nice reviews, and that made me feel good. But there are websites and livejournals dedicated to ripping on fanfic authors you don't like, and I always checked those places for my name. And I would always find my name. And then I would find some really horrible things about me as a person and s a writer.

Getting rejected by all the grad schools I applied to, except one. (Which worked out well for me. I love it here.)

All rejections I've ever received, of course.

But then, I was watching Dead Man, and there was one moment that really spoke to me. The villian of the movie---a really REALLY bad guy--pulled out his gun and said "**** me? **** you!" and then shot somebody. But you know, it was the way he said. He meant it. And I decided from that moment on, that would be my motto in life. So now I shrug and say it whenever I get any sort of rejection, and then I move on.

Shadow_Ferret
11-27-2006, 07:04 PM
Perspective. THey aren't rejecting me, they're rejecting my story, and they're not even rejecting it in the negative sense. When they say "it isn't right for us, right now," that's what they mean.



See, I have a different view. I can take personal criticism. I'm pretty blase about what other people think of ME. But when they start in on my stories, I become very vulnerable and exposed. Not liking my story, which I put so much heart and soul into, is the equivelant of cutting me opening and making me bleed.

stormie
11-27-2006, 07:14 PM
Teaching, esp. when I was just starting out at 21. It's not the kids necessarily that'll make you have thick skin, it's the parents. And when you're teaching in a parochial school, those parents expect a lot. Paved the way for when I became a writer.

nighttimer
11-28-2006, 10:39 AM
I learned to develop a thick skin the first time I wrote something I absolutely loved and everyone else absolutely hated.

That was when I figured out you can't expect others to validate your talent. First you have to satisfy yourself then if anybody else digs what you're doing that's just gravy on the biscuit.

Ummm....biscuits...:e2cheer:

Kudra
11-28-2006, 03:04 PM
Working at a magazine with two bosses who just couldn't agree with each other. If I wrote something, one would hate it, the other would love it. And it had to go through both of them to get it published.

As a freelancer, joining an online critique group. I love the tough critiques, and now they don't hurt. But initially, I'd go through a period of withdrawal, where I was sure that I was writing utter crap and would never get better.

ATP
11-28-2006, 03:34 PM
Here meaning the insensitivity to, or ability to withstand, criticism?
I think there are two attitudes implicit in this - the author/ writer, and the provider of the said criticism.

The author's ability to be insensitive/withstand criticism? Is the author/writer 'precious', as I have noticed that quite a number of 'creatives' are.

Or is the author/writer open-minded, taking the view that the piece is but part of a continuing development process?

What is the author/writer objective? Adulation? Fame? Notoriety? Acceptance? Answering a 'need'? These all help shape and determine the author's perspective and response to criticism.

As for the provider of said criticism? Is he learned and have an 'academic' perspective? Does he have an agenda? Is he jealous, or have a desire to merely 'cut people down to size'? All these play a part.

I think that one should learn to become one's own harshest critic. At the same time, be open to criticism, but take into account who is providing it, their credentials, and their agenda, if any.

It was Northrop Fry, the literary critic that said that the author's finished work is but the 'delivery of the baby' with its umbilical chord severed. The piece then stands on its own, free from its creator.

TsukiRyoko
11-28-2006, 03:45 PM
Most of my life, I've been fairly thick-skinned. Actually, writing has softened me up a bit. Though, one time I was getting particularly soft-skinned, and I gave my story to one of my kindest friends, who returned it with "Wow. Terrible. Andi, you're a much better writer than this, what the hell?" and it brought me back to my senses. It also kind of formed a paradoxical personality for me, as well. Now, I'm thick-skinned and standoffish by nature, but not above clinging to someone's leg when begging for a critique.

CBeasy
11-29-2006, 07:17 AM
I have five sisters. I grew up in the same house as two of them, and they were both older than me. 'Nuff said.

stormie
11-29-2006, 05:36 PM
I have five sisters. I grew up in the same house as two of them, and they were both older than me. 'Nuff said.
Yup. I grew up in a house with my three older sisters. That'll do it.

oarsman
11-29-2006, 08:57 PM
It is the same with older brothers. My three older brothers helped develop my thick skin (mentally and physically).

Freckles
11-29-2006, 10:42 PM
A rejection from my dream magazine. :( The sting is finally going away.

aghast
11-30-2006, 04:02 AM
when a nasty critter turned out to be absolutely right - if that didnt make someone humble i dont know what will

SLake
12-04-2006, 04:25 AM
Hurt happens to me when I'm unsure of where I'm going wrong. At work I never had a problem with difficult customers or clients, but I went at it as a process in search of a solution.

Till yesterday I was uncertain about agent hunting--the rejections. It was a haze. Now it's clear and I feel focussed. I have a couple of rejections due, but now I know why. Knowing reasons why seems to overcome hurt for me.

But the hurts y'all mentioned, I know every single one, ouch--except brothers and sisters. Never had any of those, boohoo. I just had parents! :cry:

janetbellinger
12-04-2006, 04:58 AM
Joining AW - and learning from other writers to separate myself from my writing.