On learning to be a thick-skinned hypersensitive wreck

A friend has just shared with me a tweet they read from Matt Haig:

‘To be a writer you need a thick skin.’ True. But to write well in the first place you need to be a hypersensitive wreck. (Irony.)

How true this feels at the moment.

Currently, I’m on a high. Sonali finally published, I’m guest-blogging all over about it, giving talks, raising money for Ria’s campaign and even about to give my first ever Facebook interview for a closed group for interested Bengali-learners!

At the same time, I have editors almost literally throwing work at me which will take up the next two months at least. All paid – the kids can eat for the next few weeks at least.

As if this wasn’t enough, my Masters degree thesis is well on the way with all the field research complete and much of the literature review work on the way. I still have to write the damned thing admittedly but a couple of months ago I didn’t think the research would even begin let alone get as far as writing anything!

So how is it that just one negative incident can turn this 🙂 into this 😦 ?

It could be anything – a rejection letter (we get plenty of those as writers don’t we?); a criticism of something we’ve written (if we don’t write material which challenges then surely we’re not writing anything at all?); or, in this case, a disagreement with friends over the use of a photo in one of my articles.

should be thick-skinned and get over it. The matter has been dealt with, I hope, to everyone’s satisfaction. Yet, I’ve had sleepless nights about it all. It’s not the first time I’ve had this reaction and won’t be the last, I’m sure, but it’s a right bugger when you’re trying to get on with commercial work or even just your next book (and I’m doing both at the moment). The last two days have not been productive ones. Professionally, I admire the writers I know who have skin the thickness of elephant hide. However, I confess, I wouldn’t want to be like them. I find them rude and arrogant on a personal level.

Haig’s tweet is brilliantly concise and accurate in this respect. I’m still learning, even after several years now as a freelancer, how to be the hypersensitive wreck which gives me the artistic drive to create – and yet develop that thick skin to prevent the bad times from stultifying my work. I managed this time…but it was a close thing.

There's toooo many words to read all this...
There’s toooo many words to read all this…

 

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4 thoughts on “On learning to be a thick-skinned hypersensitive wreck

  1. I don’t remember if I ever asked you… what’s your Masters major?

    I really really hope there will come a time when I get used to criticism on my writing, but right now it seems highly unlikely. In my case, the teachers are diligent critics but not ambitious when it comes to complimenting what I’m doing right. I think what’s most important, Ken, is to not let whatever bums you be a reason for a break from work. I think we have to learn to speed up the process of being disappointed and getting over it 😛 . Best of luck with all your work Ken! I really really hope to see your second book out in the bookstores soon!

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    1. It has the long and complicated title of being in “Intercultural Studies in Asian Contexts” with my specialism being Islam. It’s a socio-cultural-religio-historical Masters which is no less word lol!

      I think I’m used to criticism from an academic point of view and certainly from editors – have the right and it’s their job to make the best from your writing so that they keep up the reputation of their publications. It’s when stuff comes out of the blue, or is unwarranted, or – as in this case – comes unexpectedly from friends. You’re right though – we have to get better at getting over it…
      Well, I’m working on a series of books with an editor in China right now, then I may well have a short story published in an anthology I’m also editing and THEN there is the next book of my own to get on with. It will, however, be very boring as it is one memory techniques for students. After that though – back to my first love of Bangladesh!

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      1. Oh wow that’s incredibly specific lol! I didn’t know you could major in anything so specific :-O. Cool!

        Ah… well I’m waiting to get to read more fiction of yours. And why China of all places :-S?

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      2. LOL yeah a lot of Masters degrees are that specific these days. If you think about it this is because they’re only one step away from a Phd which is just about as specific as you can get!

        Yeah, I need to find the time to get some more fiction out on to the internet through published sources. I just don’t have time to pitch to editors at the moment…

        And China because…well, just because! The editor approached me and we work well together. I’ll write for anyone anyway – IF they pay me! lol 🙂

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