Rather than answer a question this week, I decided to just talk. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of discussions online about having a thick skin and how writers need to have one to be successful.
I have to respectfully disagree, if only for the reason that I don’t have one and I consider myself to be successful. When I was a child, more than one teacher assured me that I would develop a thicker skin as I grew up, but I suppose I didn’t inherit the thick skin gene because it didn’t happen for me.
If having a thick skin means not really listening when someone criticizes your work, that can’t really be a positive thing, can it? I do listen to the people who don’t like what I do because I can learn from what they have to say. When a client does it, that means I need to change something or perhaps even generally be more careful, and that’s not a bad thing.
A person who turns you down for a gig may be giving you some information that you need to know. Maybe you need to change your approach, update your samples or get some more experience before you take a run at that opportunity again.
No one likes being criticized – me included. It can be hurtful and I do let myself feel that. What I don’t do is let it paralyze me into not trying again or refusing to see the truth that may be hidden in the message.
The person doing the criticizing doesn’t know how thick or thin my skin is. I don’t have a thick skin but that same trait means that I bring some other traits to the table like empathy and patience because that is what I hope to get from others that I deal with. Add in the determination to keep trying to give clients what they need and a dash of ambition (otherwise I wouldn’t be challenging myself to try new things or improve what I do), and the lack of a thick skin isn’t so much of a factor.
If having a thick skin means that I stop really listening to the people I am interacting with, then it may not be such a desirable trait.
What do you think? Do you have a thick or thin skin and how much does it matter in your work?