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?