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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thick or Thin?

I read an interesting question this morning on literary agent, Rachelle Gardner's facebook.
"Are you thick-skinned?"
I'm thinking her purpose in asking this question is to get comments about how important it is too develop a thick skin when it comes to the whole publishing industry and the prospect of rejection or negative revews of your published works.
Here's my question:
How many fine artists, whether they be writers, singers, painters, sculpters, song-writers, poets, etc. do you know who are thick-skinned?
Don't the very qualities required to create art make an artist thin-skinned?
Artists respond to promptings within their creative brains.
Thin-skinned (sensitive) people are permeable. That is, their brains have picked up on visual, auditory, tactile stimuli from outside.
Then, their talent allows them to process and emotionally synthesize what they've experienced and turn it into a unique product:
  • an unusual and poignant rendering of a song
  • a story that captures readers's imaginations and makes them stay up late at night
  • the jazz pianist who learns all his jazz scales, chords and riffs, then shuffles them into a completely new and creative performance style
  • the artist who "sees" something in his head and makes his picture come to life on a canvas or sculpture.
Yes, I know that in the industries of art, music and writing, that there will always be agents and publishers who won't "get it." They'll say, "no thank you." Of course, they're basing their judgments solely on what they think will or will not sell.
And of course that rejection hurts. It's like learning to play the guitar. Those strings dig into your fingers and make them pretty sore. But the guitar student pushes past that and eventually develops tough finger tips.

But wouldn't it be awful if the entire body developed that kind of toughness?
Would you want thick skin when it comes to your relationship with the Lord?
He has many things to communicate to us each day. We need spirits that are soft and permeable, so that we can receive and apply His messages.

So I say, develop toughness, but just in the small spot where it's needed.
Let the rest of yourself, the parts that feel, listen, see and hear remain tender and soft.
Listen and learn from rejection and criticism. Embrace the pain. Let those lessons permeate.
Then, you will not write stories that have lost any scintillation, or unique style.
Your unique stamp is based on your thin-skinned receptivity to everything outside of yourself.
Have the courage to remain thin-skinned.

How about you, artist friend? What are your thoughts? Please leave them here.
Have a wonderful day!

"Let a righteous man strike me --it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me --it is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it." (Psalm 141:5)


  1. Rather than developing a thick skin, I'd really like to learn how to untangle my ego from the process. To somehow learn that the rejections and criticisms aren't about me.

    But I agree. If my skin gets thick, I want it to only be in the one area. I want to be able to take criticism and rejection well.

  2. Hi Dena; Thoroughly enjoyed this subject; Tough to balance enduring criticism and maintaining sensitivity.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Criticism is something most us do not like to hear but is often needed. I guess it all depends on who's giving it and is it being given to help or to hurt? Sometimes distinguishing the difference is very difficult.

  4. Hi Dena -

    Great take on a subject we hear so much about.

    The toughest teacher I had in grade school taught me how to read. She was demanding, even tyrannical, but she succeeded. I'm glad she persisted, and I took her correction.

    Susan :)

  5. Thanks, Bruce. I appreciate your comment.

  6. Old Geezer, I so agree. It depends on who's giving the criticism and what the stakes are: having a manuscript rejected vs having a paragraph critiqued.

  7. Thanks Susan.I had a music teacher like that, but I wanted so much to please her that I worked my tail off for her.