On Life

Thick Skin

wandThis week in classes we’ve talked a lot about the craft of writing…what goes into it, what makes a good piece, what makes a good novel.

One thing I’ve learned in life, love, and writing is that we have to have thick skin.

If we can’t take criticism well—either to heed it or let it roll off our backs—we’re not going to enjoy being in the writing world. We’re not going to enjoy the beauty of putting something out for public consumption. I’ve been to many different types of book talks, and the truth is, not everyone is going to love everything we write.

I chalk it up to the fact that they just don’t have good taste.

All kidding aside, I always keep in mind what J.K. Rowling said. It’s quite profound and the reason we write to begin with:

“I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity.”

Moreover, she continues modestly, stating:

“I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

People can be quick to criticize other people’s writing. Some people have never written a thing in their life, but seem to be the first to say something wasn’t good or was not enjoyable. To those people, I task you: try writing something and see how far you get. It takes passion, hard work, and dedication to complete a task like writing a novel.

Writers feel a sense of need, a need that involves putting words on a page. It is part of our makeup; it’s part of who we are. Don’t let other people decide whether or not you are good enough. As James Cameron said, “Don’t put limitations on yourself. There are plenty of people who will do that for you.”

If you don’t have thick skin, you won’t make it. Do the best you can with the talent you have. Follow your heart and your pen, and write what you know. Write what happened during that horrible time in your life. Write how people let you down or lift you up. Write what moves you. Write to enlighten.

Overall, write what sets your heart on fire.JohnIrving

 

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