Monday, January 28, 2019

Three Ways for Writers to Grow a Thick Skin

This week's post is by writer and editor Yolanda Smith. We are excited to have her join the Write Editing team.

By Yolanda Smith

Recently, a client of mine sent a few short pieces for edit work. In her email she said, “I am pretty thick-skinned and appreciate your honest feedback, corrections, and edits.” The most successful writers I know have this trait in common: they’ve developed a thick skin.

Perhaps you were born with a steely personality, but if that isn’t you, here are three practices that will help you form a thick skin:

Separate Yourself from Your Work

You are not your work. Your writing is an extension of you, much like a limb or digit. If one of your appendages were severed—God forbid—it wouldn’t fundamentally change who you are. Writing is personal, and part of our essence leaks into our work, but after we’ve sweated and bled all over the page, our core self remains intact.

A tough critique is not a slam on your personality. It’s an opportunity to learn how to maneuver through criticism, deciding what to use and what to reject. Learn to wield objective analyzation like a skilled swordsman, slicing away input that doesn’t work for you, and keeping the voices that ring true.

Carry Determination in Your Back Pocket

Hold your manuscript loosely, but don’t lose sight of your end goals. Bulldog tenacity is a necessary component of a successful writing career. Fiery determination—and a bucket full of prayer—will carry you beyond hurtful situations. Be aware difficult and dark moments will worm their way into your creative life, but set your eyes on the prize and don’t let go for any reason other than a divine change of direction. Sometimes I write myself a reminder before submitting a piece of work and put it in a prominent place where I can see it when I receive a response: Remember, this acceptance or rejection will not make or break you. You may cheer or you may cry, but both are momentary reactions. Take a few breaths to enjoy your celebration or wallow in your sorrow, then get back to work.

Get a Second Opinion

And sometimes a third and fourth. Early in my current manuscript I worked with a writing coach. She’s a best-selling author and award-winning editor. In other words, she knows her stuff. My novel is historical Appalachian fiction and as such contains dialect peculiar to mountain folk. I took a chapter to a critique group where a few well-meaning writers advised me to scale back the hillbilly idioms. I followed their suggestions. When I sent my next round of chapters to my coach, she asked what had happened to my writing voice. I lost it by following the recommendation of writers barely ahead of me in their craft. I gave too much weight to their assessment and was thankful to get another opinion that felt more authentic to my story line.

Here’s a bonus element for gaining the tough hide necessary to persevere in your writing life: submissions. Submit anywhere and everywhere you can, thereby opening yourself to criticism. You’re bound to find plenty of opportunities to grow beyond the pain, and your thick skin will layer at a solid rate, I promise.

Have you developed a thick skin as a writer? If so, we'd love to hear your suggestions.

(Photos courtesy of, Michelle Meiklejohn, and Stuart Miles.)


Yolanda Smith enjoys life in the foothills of North Carolina. In a “Yours, Mine & Ours” spin, she and her husband are parents to a combined total of twelve children and grandparents to a growing number of littles. Yolanda serves on her church’s worship team, works as a freelance editor, is a guest speaker at various churches, and writes in the cracks of life. She is currently working on her first novel featuring historical Appalachian fiction. A former member of a legalistic, cultish church, Yolanda is passionate about helping people find freedom in Christ. She is also enthusiastic about reading good books and correcting bad grammar.

You can find Yolanda on the Internet at:


  1. Welcome to the team, Yolanda! Thanks for this post. It is timely and necessary. As both an editor and a writer, I sit in. Org aides of the critique desk. One thing that keeps me from taking criticism personally is to remember my goal whenever I edit a writer’s piece — to help them write the best possible article so their message (and they) will shine. If we assume this about every critique we receive, it takes out the personal component and makes it all about the work itself, not the writer.

  2. Thanks for the welcome, Lori! I like your perspective from both sides of the desk. “... makes it all about the work itself, not the writer.” YES!