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Thick Skin

Small winking dinosaur on a green and pink background asking "How thick-skinned are you?"

Eventually, someone else will read your writing. Most of us who fancy ourselves writers will ask other people to read our words and tell us what they think of our creation. Without a doubt, this is a terrifying endeavor which, while we are in no physical danger, can be no less paralyzing.

Will they like the story? Hate it? Will they understand the point? Will thematic undertones be lost? Is it boring? Will the emotional pull happen at all the right places? Is the hero suitably heroic? The villain - is he (or she) convincing? Are the climax and denouement satisfying? Have all loose ends and questions been effectively tidied and answered? Do the flow and pacing work smoothly to deliver the story seamlessly?

Imposter syndrome is a common worry for writers. Feeling like an imposter or a poseur cripples some of the best storytellers but this emotional vulnerability isn't the point of this post. I'm talking about the anxiety we all feel when we loose our literary children onto the world.

We incubate ideas and concepts until they resemble a compelling plot or character. We nurture and raise these infantile bits of story, pushing them to grow and mature by guiding them through conflicts and challenges. Worlds are built and torn apart. Power is given and taken away. We tease out flaws and weaknesses, polishing them into gleaming sparks of redemption. And, once all the work has been done, we repeat the process - many, many times. With determination, we set to refining and advising, improving the narrative until no more imperfections can be seen by our own eyes. At this point, we screw up our courage, hold our breath, and invite others to praise our triumphs or declare our failures. We ask for critiques and reviews.

Understand, this is a big ask for both parties. Generally, we ask people we know and respect for their thoughts on our stories. We desperately want their approval and endorsement. For their part, the individuals we turn to worry about hurting our feelings while still wanting to provide honest feedback.

Here's the rub. Honesty often hurts. Of course, when honesty results in praise for our creation, we feel successful. However, when the honest feedback is less than glowing, we are crushed. Most reviewers or critics are not motivated by malice. Most want to help improve our craft. Most feel there is ample space on the literary landscape for all stories. But, this is where growth happens.

We aren't obligated to act on any feedback we receive. Understand that suggestions are just that; suggestions. But, if we can learn to objectively consider all praise and criticisms, our writing will improve. The ability to step back from our work and realize it isn't perfect empowers us to make courageous changes. We develop thick skin and refuse to take criticism personally.

As writers, thick skin is just another superpower in our arsenal of talents.

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