Imagine this… You’re eight years old and you’ve just written your first short story. It’s about a crab who hitches a ride to the top of a mountain on the tail of a leopard. It’s a story about trust and risk and making friends.
You show it to your mom, your dad, and your grandma and they LOVE IT! You’re a genius. You get hugged and your story is plastered on the fridge. Enthused, you go back and write and your work keeps getting this response until you get to high school and for the first time, someone other than Mom, Dad, and Grandma gets to see it. This time, it’s an English teacher and for the first time, instead of hugs, your “work of genius” comes back lined with red ink.
“Be creative as you like,” she says, “but abide by the rules of grammar.”
Unbelievable! How is this possible?
You fight a good fight, but your grade doesn’t change from that D to the A+++++++ (and a hug) your grandma would have given you.
You have two choices – you can give up right there and never write another word (unless it’s for work or to update your CV), or you can recognize that there are rules to the game and if you want to break them, you have to learn them first.
Congratulations. You’ve just grown 1.23 mm of skin. You’re a writer. You’ve got what it takes. But 1.23 mm of skin might be enough for school. It’s not enough for the world.
To stay the course, you need to welcome and relish criticism. You need to bask in its blistering heat. You need to learn to stand up to it, hold it in your hand, and say “Foooeeee, I kiss the cheeks of your critique!” Because, you’ll admit, there is a lot of truth in that criticism/feedback/whatever you want to call it.
There are hundreds of courses that will teach you how to write. Thousands of books with advice on what to do and how to do it and whom to send it to when it’s done. But only you can grow your skin so thick that it doesn’t hurt when you put your heart on the table so people with sharp and shiny forks can prod and peel your layers off.
When you let them prick, stab, and shred your work while you stand strong, then you will have won.
If you collapse into tears at the first sign of negativity, then no matter how good your work is, chances are, publishers and agents will walk away. Why? This is a grown-up world with grown-up money at stake along with grown-up reputations. There is little space for eight-year-olds who need hugs every time they pee in the right pot.
So grow your skin. It’s the only way to really love this glorious, imperfect, painfully subjective business.
Kick some ass today!