Thursday 13 March 2014

Growing a Thick Skin

Now, where was this article the first time I went through the submission process? 

I've since managed to thicken my skin by scrubbing myself down with brillo pads and sand each morning, but this is a neat shortcut to surviving the bubble-bursters: Thickening Skin: 6 Tips for Taking Criticism

Although I particularly enjoyed the section Some people aren't your audience. Others are just ass-holes (though, thankfully, I've not yet met a reader who's been an asshole, so I'll substitute that for 'industry professional') I think the most important advice came towards the end:

There are several common myths that make criticism more difficult to handle. First, we have the myth of good writing. If you buy into the idea that fundamentally "good writing" exists—that there's a template out there in the universe that describes what makes written work good or bad—then any criticism of your work becomes a reflection of whether you are "good enough."

It's a myth often perpetuated, knowingly or otherwise, by agents and publishers who feel the need to say something when responding with a rejection, and instead of making that something neutral and 'all the best,' turn it into something which is more personal and confidence-crushing. Confusing the fact that there is a 'promotable mainstream' with the notion that there is an aforementioned template for good and bad work. 

An opinion is just an opinion, and it's always worth ignoring the opinion in favour of inspecting who that opinion belongs to, and why. 

You know that line in Pretty Woman

The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

We all suffer from it. I can get five-star reviews on Amazon, have someone contact me from halfway across the world to tell me how much they've enjoyed one of my novels, and yet one kick-back from a submission and the world is a darker place. Suddenly that agent or publisher's opinion means more than a reader's... seriously, why?

That's skewed logic if ever there was, but it's deeply rooted in school child psychology that we exist to impress people. That opinion is worth more the higher up a hierarchy it goes, be it a teacher, a religious leader, a politician (although they're gradually losing all credibility) or a publisher. When, mostly, those opinions are formed of the criteria the opinion holder must uphold: the national curriculum, a holy doctrine, a party whip or popular consumerism. 

Few grown writers would beat themselves up if they failed to agree with any of the others, so why submit wholeheartedly to the opinion of the last?

That said, if they do happen to agree with you - fantastic!

You might also enjoy a chuckle at rejection letters sent to famous authors.

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