The following blog post was inspired by Ruth Schiffmann's "Thick Skin" blog post. Thanks Ruth!
Recently I read a blog post in which a fellow writer asked the question: Do you have a thin skin/thick skin story to share? I'm going to expand on the answer I gave her here. I've gone through life being told my writing's great, albeit mostly by biased friends and family members. I've had some criticism from strangers that I'd call 'flaming'. They helped me develop what I thought was a pretty thick skin. But then I got serious about my writing, and joined Absolute Write.
For those unfamiliar with it, AW is a great place to go for honest feedback on your writing. I submitted a chapter for critique - a prologue. Feedback started rolling in, and for the most part it was pleasant but honest. Pleasant. Honest. Helpful. Encouraging, and constructive. Then it happened - I got some more critique, and it was harsh. Seriously HARSH. Like a huge bitter angry rant, intimating the reader's utter boredom with my writing. My writing was so boring she couldn't get to the end of the chapter. I was wasting her time, and that made her angry.
Fighting back tears, I turned off the laptop and went to bed. Couldn't sleep. I lay there stewing, feeling by turns devastated and angry and...confused. Didn't this girl have anything nice to say about my writing? Everyone else had! Not this one, though. And for all the 'niceness' of the other feedback, this brutal stuff was what stuck with me, whirled around in my head, plagued me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. And slowly it dawned on me that while the mean girl was seriously mean, she actually...had a point.
A really good one.
I got up again (it was a "school night", already way past bedtime), turned my laptop back on. I started rewriting. Mad scramble to fix what the mean girl had (rightfully) bitched about. It started slowly, but I wound up cutting about 7k of unnecessary words. Like, the whole prologue plus other chapters. Seven thousand words from a seriously bloated manuscript that needed trimming. Trimming is a funny word to use. Doesn't quite do the task justice. Point is, this horrible mean feedback that had so upset me resulted in huge improvements to my manuscript. It also taught me that I can take harsh critique. I can take it or leave it, but if my gut tells me to take it, I can do so and it won't kill me. It'll help me.
I'll say it hurt. Oh yeah, it hurt a LOT. But it taught me a valuable lesson. So I thank that mean girl, because she gave me a wake-up call and helped me develop this thick skin of mine.