by Lucy Zhang, jaBlog! Blogger & Artwork Designer
Artwork by Lucy Zhang
A while ago, I wrote an article about why writers need thick skin. However, an important question remained unanswered:
How does one go about getting thick skin?
There are no shortcuts to any place worth heading towards. The best and most painful solution is to simply put your writing out there, receive favourable and scathing criticism. It is from this experience that a writer can discern the difference between constructive criticism and trolls.
That sounds all nice and sound, but I’ll admit that my answer is nearly as bad as answering a question with a question.
How do you get constructive and/or realistic criticism from an audience beyond my family, friends, and teachers?
Here are three ways to thicken your writer’s skin.
Submittable.com itself is just a platform that literary magazines use to read submissions from writers. However, you’d be surprised how many magazines out there use the same platform. Submittable is structured in such a way that you can “mass” submit poems or short stories to different magazines, check the status of submissions, and withdraw submissions if they are accepted to another publication.
Many literary magazines also offer monetary compensation and feedback if requested. There is nothing better than a professional judge or writer distanced by wires and screens to give sound advice for why a piece was rejected. Of course, it will hurt, but the fact that the criticism specifically and personally addresses your piece is an enormous step above the standard rejection letter.
Write Guest Posts
Guest posting for blogs is actually pretty simple and has mutual benefits. If the blog has a decent readership, a guest post can use that popularity to gauge reader responses. Meanwhile, the blog owner gets a break from creating content on a regular basis.
Make sure to read the blog carefully though, as some have strict guidelines about submissions while others may not accept submissions at all. And before you jump to sending a guest post to giants such as the NY Times or Huffington Post, start out with smaller blogs in order to learn the ways of the online media. Make one factual error on a big news site and the readers become absolutely ruthless in pointing it out and tearing the article to pieces. Thick skin doesn’t develop in one day, after all.
Write Personal Essays in School
This might seem a bit surprising, but having someone else read your personal essay at school requires thicker skin than any fiction or poetry piece I’ve ever submitted. The reason is simple: the essay is based on factual, personal experience so when someone criticizes the content of the essay, it feels more personal and hurtful then if he or she were criticizing a fictional piece.
Personal bias manifests many times stronger in personal essays, which makes silencing the writer’s ego and opening the writer’s ears that much more significant. In the end, writers have to realize that although they may know the events best, they don’t necessarily know how best to express those events in words.