Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thick Skin

There’s a lot of talk about “growing a thick skin” when you receive critiques. They can be scathing, and you want to be tough enough to weather the burns. But I—gasp—disagree.

I don’t think you have to be tough when you receive a critique. Maybe it’s just because I’m an emotional, over-sensitive person, but it bothers me to be critiqued. When I received a crit recently, it upset me. But I know that didn’t necessarily mean it was wrong. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with it, and I’m grateful my CP was so thorough.

But it still upset me.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I really don’t think people can help how they feel about anything. I’m not saying threaten to gouge out your eyes because someone moved a comma or didn’t like a character. Keep things in perspective and remember, people can still choose how to react. And that’s where the real challenge comes in. Being sad/angry/whatever and still knowing not to start up a Facebook page burning your critiquer.

“Grow a thick skin” isn’t helpful for someone who doesn’t have one and has no concept on how to grow one. Instead, I recommend, “Don’t let your emotions have full control over your actions.” A bit wordy, but valid nonetheless. Feel, but remember there are other sections to your brain with things like logic, reason and thought for the future. Use those.

Control yourself and you don’t need a thick skin.


  1. I agree.

    It annoys me when people tell me to not feel when they attack me. Thick skin? Some people don't have it.

    Of course, a critique is not meant as an attack. It's an attack on your manuscript with the purpose of making it better. It may feel like an attack, though.

  2. Hi,

    The thing is, whatever one happens to be involved with whether as a reviewer of books or as a critique partner, cause for professionalism is paramount or one's input is worse than useless. By that I mean being able to critique a manuscript without criticising it in the negative! There is a difference: all critiques should be constructive and impart sensitivity to the person who will be recipient of said critique. Any suggestions for improvement, slight change etc., can be worded with kindness and a "good written example": the latter proof the critique partner has the skill to impart her/his opinion! ;)

    Same goes for book reviewers: most of whom leave a lot to be desired in their needing to learn how to review books without giving away spoilers, and how to write a brief summary as opposed to personal opinion on book's content.


  3. I'm very apprehensive toward reviews that may roll in on my novel. I think I'd prefer to just blissfully ignore them and live in a pretend world that everyone that may someday buy my book will love it.

    But I know that is not going to be the case. Some people may even be offended. Oh well. No one ever died of reading. Words can only hurt if you let them.

  4. I like how you put it, it's not like we can switch our feelings off and on. It's easier to choose how to react though. I got a bad review recently and it pinched me, but I went away, took several deep breaths, and it was easier to say thanks and take the constructive part of the criticism.

  5. I totally agree with you here! I don't necessarily have a thick skin, but I definitely have confidence in myself. But I also have my low moments, and yes, I have been known to cry over harsh critique. But I always get right back on the horse. So to speak. ;)

  6. Very interesting! I've never thought of it that way before. Enjoy your feelings. :) A lot of critiques, however, are more devastating because of the WAY they are delivered. Hopefully the critique of yours was kind enough. But our work is still our "baby" and we'd like everyone to enjoy it!

  7. I agree. Every single time I go to open a critique I've gotten back, I take a deep breath, read it and close it right after. I don't touch it again for a day or two, while I stew over what to do about the comments or problems with my book. Sometimes I'm upset, but I've gotten to the point where I just have to think about it for a while. And most often, the critique is right on. :)

  8. Well said!

    I've been apprehensive to give critiques in writer groups because on a previous occasion, one critique I gave, which was as diplomatic as I could put it, resulted in the writer going ballistic on me.

    I think that when we give a critique, we need to be constructive in how we express ourselves. Like Carol says, it's the way it's delivered.

    When we're the ones being critiqued, on the other hand, for all we say about the thick skin part, the writing's our creation, so naturally we're going to be sensitive about it.

    Like you say, control yourself, and you don't need a thick skin.


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