Today’s topic is the third of the “5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing.” When you want to be published, one of the things you need to do is grow a thick skin. Trust me, you’ll need it. Or as I’ve heard it said: “Trade your skin for rhino hide.”
The need for a thick skin doesn’t start when you’re trying to get an agent, or your agent is trying to get a publisher — it’s for your entire writing career beginning with the first word you put on paper or screen. As I’m sure most of you writers out there have experienced, very few people take your dream seriously. Even your friends and family. It’s just a hobby, a thing that you do, and if you haven’t been published, they see no reason to think that you’re a “real writer.” As I’ve said before, this is bullpucky. If you write and are serious about it, you are a real writer, and don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise.
That’s the biggest thing right there — you absolutely must believe in yourself and what you are doing. When people heard that I was writing a novel, they would always ask The Question. You all know what it is. “Have you ever been published?” It got to the point where I just didn’t mention my writing in casual company. I got sick and tired of the question. But if someone had heard that I was writing a novel, I’d tell them that it wasn’t a matter of if I got published, but when. For that statement, I’d get that polite little smile that said “Bless her heart, she’s delusional.” Needless to say, I ignored their opinions completely. ; )
But the big wakeup call for most writers (who are close to becoming published authors) is when they find out that publishing industry is just that, an industry. It is a business, people. Just like any other. Your book isn’t your baby; it’s a product. But I digress. I’ll take on that topic in my next “5 Things” blog. Many times I have been soooo close to getting an agent only to get the “no, thank you” letter. Now let me stop to shoot down an unfortunately common myth. Some writers think that agents love rejecting writers. They absolutely do not. They want to find treasure in that slush pile. They love books; they love authors; and they love finding books that give them chills. If you’re fortunate, an agent will have the time to give you a little word of encouragement and/or feedback in that rejection letter or email. But most of the time, you’ll get a “thank you, but your manuscript just isn’t a good fit for us” or something to that effect. That means they didn’t get chills from reading it. BUT, very important point here, what doesn’t give one agent chills, makes another agent jump up and down and go “squeee!” It is all in personal preference. Agents don’t rep projects unless they absolutely adore it. So when you get those rejection letters (and you will, I certainly did), don’t let them get to you. Just check that agent off of your list and keep going.
It all ties back to my previous “5 Things” post — you gotta want it bad. You have to want it badly enough to ignore what anyone says or thinks or implies. You gotta want it regardless of how long it takes (over 20 years for me). Because I am here to tell you that the wait, the struggle, everything is so worth it. I’m actually glad it took over 20 years from the time I started writing until I got published. I appreciate everything so much more because I had to work so hard and wait so long for it. And it is still hard work. Actually, I’m working harder now than before I was published. Because as I said, writing is a business. I do more than just write. But I’ll talk more about that next time.
I’ve got a sticker on my computer that says “If they can do it, you know you can.” It’s been there for years, and I have no plans to take it down. So grow that rhino hide and believe in yourself — if they can do it, you know you can. ; )