ACW

ACW

Thursday, 25 February 2016

How thin is your skin? by Fiona Lloyd

Beautiful!
There are some days when I feel I’m not cut out to be a writer. Before you swamp me with a deluge of sympathy or – worse still – start typing Hear, hear! into the comments box, let me explain. It’s not that I can’t cope with the need to persevere, to refine and to edit. I understand that my work may need umpteen rewrites before I dare show it to anyone (and that’s just my shopping list). I’ve a well-developed penchant for beautiful stationery and I get irrationally excited at the sight of a large dictionary. And my friends must think I’m turning into a social recluse, as I often lose track of real-life conversations because I’m having a private chat with one of my characters in my head.

             Most of the things I struggle with in regard to my writing can be overcome with a little ingenuity, a willingness to learn and a healthy dose of pig-headedness. Reading articles, going on courses and interacting with other writers helps me build and extend my skill-set. Being creative with my free time enables me to make the best use of the space I have (and to forgive myself when I don’t).

One of my better selfies...
            What I haven’t worked out – cue understanding nods – is how to grow a rhinoceros-like hide. I wilt at the first whiff of criticism. I puff up with indignation if I think somebody has misunderstood what I've said. I’ve had critiques (not from you, Fiona VS!) that  left me sobbing into the carpet. And I worry that if I ever get my WIP to a point where it’s publishable, I’ll be crushed by the first negative review that comes my way. 

            Writing – like much of our Christian life – makes us vulnerable; but I’m not sure the answer is to give up, or hide ourselves away. When we choose to follow the calling we believe God has placed on our lives, we open ourselves up to hurt, disappointment and rejection. Jesus warned his disciples of this: he knows when a careless comment or an unfair review causes us damage. (Sometimes the fair ones can be pretty painful, too.)

I think I'm prepared...
I suspect what we need to do is equip ourselves with strategies to deal with negative feedback. Have a good rant at a trusted friend, or douse our sorrows in a bucket of tea / whiskey. Recognise that criticisms are mostly about our words, rather than who we are as people, and that personal opinions about books are just that. (I regret to say that after 30 years together, I still can’t persuade my better half to read Lord of the Rings.) Take it all back to Jesus: when Scripture says he’ll carry our burdens, I guess that includes the ones we find on the big A. 

One more thing I’ve realised: while most bad reviews should be handled with those industrial-waste gloves favoured by bin men everywhere, there may be the occasional nugget of gold buried beneath the intemperate words. That critique that necessitated the use of a whole box of Kleenex? When I eventually dared to go back and re-read it, I found a few gems of advice hidden among the lists of problems with my manuscript. Some of it was even quite positive. Maybe God made me sensitive for a purpose…




Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. She enjoys writing short stories, and is working on her first novel. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013, and blogs at www.fjlloyd.wordpress.com. She is married with three grown-up children. Fiona is ACW's membership secretary.












20 comments:

  1. So very well said. You are right that we all have different ideas about books. In fact we all read a different book as we bring our own expectations and experiences with us when we read it. You are also right that we need to develop a thick skin and learn from the reviews we get.

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    1. Thanks, Wendy - I don't know why it still surprises me so much that people have such wildly differing views on books!

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  2. It may be that even as we let our itchy fingers hover above a blank page, we should remind ourselves that 'Someone somewhere is probably going to hate/misunderstand/trash this.' If all we got was bland lukewarm approval that might be a truer sign that something needed fixing! Well said, Fiona.

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    1. Thanks, Aggie - it still feels a bit daunting, knowing that not everyone will approve of what we write.

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  3. I'm just the same. My thin skin has been my undoing more than once.

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    1. That sounds painful, Lesley - I'm still hoping I'll grow out of it.

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  4. Thin-skin syndrome. Ah, tell me about it! In the end it comes down to whether the person delivering the critique is trying to help, to give us a platform from which to improve, or whether there is a touch of something else there. The only thing that really matters in all this is that we pick ourselves up off the soggy carpet, and carry on.

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    1. Thanks, Veronica - I like the reminder to pick ourselves up and carry on. Sometimes sulking seems so much easier...

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  5. Thanks for this Fiona. I must admit to having a few wobbles this week as my own manuscript inches forward to publication.... It's my story, and it's all true, but I still have serious wobbles and worries about all the people I may end up offending because they won't agree with (or worse, believe) what happened to me.
    Yet it did happen, and it's written for God's glory. So thank you for reminding me that Jesus is big enough to cope and has thick enough skin to handle it and me. xx

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    1. Hope you can overcome those wobbles, Mandy - I'm looking forward to reading your story!

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  6. All true - and here's the thing, the 'thin' skin is the membrane through which we see the things which make us write. The thick skinned (or those with a large mesh through which subtleties fall) are content to l eave stuff, or never see it at all,which inspires us. Huh, I am telling myself this as well as you! But it's true. We notice stuff. So we probably notice comments as 'rejection' when they bare meant to be useful, at least sometimes. I know I do. Thanks for this Fiona, and I love the photos esp. the rhino, she has amazing expression! (And now I must return to beta-reading, and thinking how to phrase my critique!)

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    1. Thanks, Mari - I love your description of the thin skin as being "the membrane through which we see the things which make us write". I shall try to remember that next time I feel affronted by something.

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  7. Thanks for this, Fiona. I am nodding with a big 'Me, too!' and confess to having been so crippled by worry about what people might think that my writing has more than once come to a complete stop. Wise words about using God-given talents; after all we play for an audience of One.

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    1. Glad it was helpful, Helen. I'm sorry your worries have slowed you down: I love reading your posts. Please keep going! xx

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  8. I think we can be quite delusional too. When I ask that friend for feedback, although I've convinced myself I'm ready for anything, I'm not really. I just want to be told it's amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how desperate the human need for affirmation is. But, as mentioned already, it depends so much on how it's done. Whatever,I think we need, in Fiona's words to become nugget hunters. And help each other to do so. Fabulous, honest post :)

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    1. Thanks, Deborah. I'll admit to fooling myself when I ask for feedback - often, I only really want to hear the good stuff. I think I need to get better at re-visiting comments and picking out the helpful stuff.

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  9. I think we can be quite delusional too. When I ask that friend for feedback, although I've convinced myself I'm ready for anything, I'm not really. I just want to be told it's amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how desperate the human need for affirmation is. But, as mentioned already, it depends so much on how it's done. Whatever,I think we need, in Fiona's words to become nugget hunters. And help each other to do so. Fabulous, honest post :)

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    1. This is starting to sound like a syndrome - "Writers' Nod". Thanks for reading, Fiona.

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