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All about words



On Thick and Thin Skin -- inevitable injuries and the beautiful business of books

Posted by nancyfreund11 on May 10, 2014 at 1:10 AM

Having just found a feature in Twitter that allows me to embed a tweet into a website, check this out:



If I've lost you to the tweet, so be it.  A worthwhile departure.  It's Robin Black's excellent list of 21 things she wishes she knew about writing before diving into the career of it.  I want to pull a quote from nearly every item. But let's cut straight to  #21: 

"Make your skin as thick as you are able to, for your career. Keep it as thin as you can tolerate, for your art." -- Robin Black

Let me add, it's both.  It's your career AND it's your art.  It's your story, and it's your PR.  It's your characters and it's your readers.  It's your plot and structure and metaphor and dialogue, and it's your cover blurbs and writer friends and publicists and the overwhelming decisions of whether or not to go offset in Michigan or print-on-demand, matte laminate or UV-coated or spot-UV or drop caps to start chapters, and whether to sell non-returnable in Europe and why you can't seem to get the databases changed when you want that bookstore in Bern to be able to buy with standard trade discounts and returnability.  And it's days when Amazon has upped your Kindle price with no notice, no reason and no response to requests for information... which might just happen to be the same day you'll get the most astonishing review by a bookblogger who seems to know your writer's soul and who gets exactly what you were trying to do with the novel throughout the ten years you were holed away writing it... remembering all the while that NO ONE asked you to do this.  No one wants you to do this.  No one is paying you to do this wriitng, and God knows there is laundry needing doing, children needing feeding, and so many other things we writers push to the side to honor our need to write.

It's the business of books, and it's the books themselves.  It's both.  Whether you're traditionally published, or legacy published, or big-house published or New York published (all the same thing, really), or university or small press published (similar but by no means the same), or "indie" (a publisher who can sneak into any book business category it chooses, really), or you are no-longer-stigmatized "self-published," you're going to need that skin -- both thick and thin. You're going to need to write what needs to be written, and rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it, till it sits with your readers the way you intended it to sit.  And when you're ready to release it to the world, do so lovingly and with trust.  You're going to be wounded, and your skin never will be thick enough when you need it to be, but you knew that going in.  You read Robin Black's list of 21 things.  You're going to be jealous!  You're going to be genuine! You're going to forget someone in your acknowledgements and be beyond horrified, and you're going to need to cut yourself some slack.

Bottom line: if you need to write, write.  And if you are game for readership, get in the game. There will be injuries -- let me rephrase that -- YOU will be injured.  Damaged. Wounded.  Hurt by good friends and anonymous readers and the person at the Saroyan Prize who doesn't realize that they really shouldn't start an email with "We are very pleased to tell you..." and then make you click something else and change computers in the middle of the night to finally follow the path down the writer's rabbit hole to the fact that their excellent shortlist does NOT include you.  Injuries are inevitable, playing dangerous games.  And yeah, you mostly sit at a desk,  you're Mr. Cautious, the Original Over-thinker, Madame Observant...but you've also always been a little bit fearless.  Am I right?  Not everyone knows it, but FEARLESS.  Fact.  So get your thick-and-thin skin on, and go for it. SOMEONE'S going to win the Saroyan Prize after all. It might just be you.  

Categories: writing & publishing, education & literacy

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