Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This thin-skinned business...

This post is really for my author friends, but if there are any readers who aren't writers and have something to chime in, please do! This topic could truly apply to any aspect of life or work/career. I'd love to hear your feedback.

It's been said that writers need to have a thick skin. That we need to learn that our books are a product, that its business and not personal, etc. etc. etc.

How in the world can we do that?

Even if we know in our heads this fact, our hearts take a LONG time - if ever - to catch up. Because while our books ARE a business, a product, and rejections aren't technically personal, they still sort of are. Writers spent months, sometimes even years, pouring heart, soul, time, energy and effort into their words. We lose time with familiies and friends, we lose sleep, we lose money by doing this instead of something more guaranteed. Our words are an investment, and more often than not, these stories that we tell reflect a deeper part of ourselves. Maybe our characters work through an issue we've struggled with in our own past or are currently struggling with. Maybe we're hoping to inspire readers (and editors/agents!) to join a cause in which we are passionate about. Maybe we're telling a love story we've always dreamed about living. Or maybe it's none of the above and we're simply writing to entertain, to inspire, to encourage.

But I can guarantee you that regardless of the above list, and how many factors are involved in our novels or not at any given time, there is one thing that is always true of a Christian fiction author - we're hoping to direct others to the Lord. Sometimes this might be done in a subtle way, other times more aggressively, but it's there. A theme of faith, hope and love is carefully woven between each paragraph, hovering over every page and scene break. It's our hearts on paper.

So a rejection from an editor or agent, a bad review from a reader, a low sales record, or two out of five stars really does sting. And that's on a good day. On a day we're already feeling down and insecure or doubtful of our calling, it's more like a fatal wound to the spirit.

Thankfully, we have that very faith to help rebound us. Jesus is there to pick us up and dust us off and whisper that we're really doing this for Him, ultimately, so who cares what Reader X from Somewhereville, USA thinks? Who cares if a fellow author sold ten times as many of her copies the same month? We're writing for an Audience of One, and if our hearts are in the right place, we'll never get a rejection letter from Him.

In the meantime, project that thin skin with prayer. Maybe time will build up callouses, but if not, if your heart is sensitive and that's just how it is, (sort of like mine!) then don't worry. There are lessons to be learned through it, and maybe that's how God wants it. Maybe its a reminder to stay humble and keep your priorities straight with Him squarely in front.

How do you develop a thick skin? Or are you one of these who has accepted the fact that its always going to hurt and that's just that? How did you reach these conclusions? And how do you handle varios rejections/bad news in writing or in life in general? (usually with me, chocolate and Diet Coke is involved) =)


Georgiana said...

You expressed my thoughts so perfectly! LOL! Wow, I never really thoughts about it being OK to be thin skinned, and that God wants us to stay humble and squarely before Him. I do suppose there is something to be learned from the process.

jenness said...

Lol. Did I give you a blog topic?? :-)

Frosty Floats are good. And reminding ourselves that all things work together for good if we love God.

So if a rejection or something happens that doesn't seem so good, it's a good time to take a look: 1. What are some ways that God could be doing me a favor here? and 2. Did this happen because I am NOT really loving God right now and He's trying to remind me what my focus should be?

But I think it's okay to growl for a while. Just as long as you don't burn bridges or make stupid public statements or something while you're at it.

Erica Vetsch said...

I try to remember what is foundational in my life. Then the opinion of Reader X doesn't hurt quite so much. In the light of what Jesus did for me, in the light of my husband's love and support, my children's encouragement, my family and friends...I try to let the not so great stuff roll off.

Though now I'd like a frosty float...

Laura J said...

I'm not a writer, but this is a great topic. I teach middle school kids who love you one day and hate you the next. (Sometimes they go through that cycle just during one class period.) I think God does use other people's words/opinion to keep us humble and broken before him. I would rather have someone's opinion hurt my feelings than to become calloused to the point that I don't feel at all. I hope that makes sense.
I've never read your books. I found your blog through Erynn Mangum's blog. I bought your book after reading your blog. I just got it yesterday and look forward to reading it over my spring break. God bless.

Betsy St. Amant said...

Wow, thanks Laura! I appreciate that and hope you enjoy it. Pop back up and let me know! =)

Christiana said...

It's so sad the way some people go around weilding their words like a sharpened sword, not caring whom they hurt. When I see things like that, or when it happens to me, it reminds me to be even more cautious about what I say. I want to build people up, not tear them down.

By the way, I posted a review for A Valentine's Wish on amazon tonight. :o)