For Writers – The Importance Of Developing A Thick Skin

In Tips & Tricks, Writing Inspiration by Sarah Cottrell | |

When I first started blogging I penned a humorous essay that poked fun at cloth diapers. In it I described one particularly unpleasant experience with changing my son. I painted a vivid picture of a flustered mother, of frustration with how much I was supposed to enjoy this gross task, of how expensive it was and the irony of finding myself scrubbing poop off of a $30 piece of fabric while bent over a toilet. I hit publish and to my astonishment that story went gangbusters.

That piece drew the attention of local cloth diapering moms, who I would describe as “fanatical”. They tore me a new one in the comments section. They dragged my article and my name through the mud on their blogs and on a local store’s website. I was vilified by a group of people who think of cloth diapering as something akin to a religion and I could not fathom why anyone would be upset over humor.

For Writers - The Importance Of Developing A Thick Skin - Beyond Your Blog Guest Post By Sarah Cottrell

I drew both laughs and ire with my silly little story. The next day I was so horrified by the vitriol and personal attacks over a humor essay that I almost quit writing. I didn’t post anything else on my blog for nearly two weeks. Instead I hid offline and licked my wounds.

What I could not have known then – because I had to learn it – is that becoming a loyal writer requires one to develop thick skin. I’m not talking about this “fake it till you make it” stuff when writers say they don’t care about trolls but then obsess over the negative feedback. I am talking about truly developing a personal philosophy of driven focus to succeed despite negativity, rejection, professional setbacks, writer’s block, bad luck, lack of support, or low stats.

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When you start writing every day, when you send out your work for publication at a regular clip, you will quickly find your fair share of rejection. Rejection will look like horrible reach on Facebook, or few clicks, likes, shares, and comments. It will look like nasty comments from trolls or total radio silence because folks just didn’t respond. It will look like not getting published by that site you applied to. It will look like someone ripping off your idea and getting an enormous positive response when you got almost no response.

While it is tempting to think of rejection as something of a black hole that sucks the creative life force out of you, it is really and truly an opportunity to grow; an opportunity that most writers fail to recognize.

Thomas Edison once said that, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” As a writer this quote has become my personal and professional mantra. Every single day I put on my imaginary overalls and I belly up to the computer desk where I pound out as close to 2,000 words as I can get. I cut and paste and shift and delete. I reword, cross out, cuss out, mutter at, and rewrite entire sections of work. I send that work out for publication. For every five pieces I send out, I get three rejections. Sometimes more. Having thick skin tells me that those rejections are not trash; they are not horrible works representing a horrible writer. Those rejected pieces are opportunities for other publications or projects.

When I publish work on big sites that have well-known comment sections where folks love to make a sport out of slaying the writer, I do not crumble and sing woe is me! I take screen shots of the absolute best troll comments and share them with my writer friends. I watch my engagement shoot through the roof. If my ego is feeling shaky then I ignore the comments entirely because reading them will not help develop thicker skin in that moment.

RELATED: Overcoming Rejection Paralysis

The beauty of having thick skin is that all of the negativity that once shook my foundation as a writer now sounds like nothing more than white noise. Rejection in its many forms is an opportunity for me to expand my professional reach or experiment with my writing style.

The best way to start building up your thick skin is to find writers around you who have more experience developing their thick skin. Talk to them. Listen to them. Build a tribe of support with these gifted people because they can teach you through encouragement and example how to ignore the bad and stay focused on the good.

Anytime your work is met with rejection – in whichever of it’s 83 shapes and sizes – remember that rejection is not a measure of self-worth, but rather an opportunity to put on your overalls and get back to work.

About the Author

Sarah Cottrell

To learn more about Sarah Cottrell's writing services, publications + books, PR, or to inquire about having a book reviewed or guest posting for her newspaper blog please visit her website,