Here’s a little secret about me: When I was young, I wanted to be an actress! No lie. I got bitten with ‘the bug’ around age 11 and even went to a theater arts performing high school to prepare.
And then I became a senior and was about to graduate and had to decide if that’s really what I wanted to do. Person after person told me that I’d better develop ‘thick skin’ if I was going to make it in the world of entertainment, since I’d face tons of rejection with the possibility of ‘making it’ almost nil.
I caved. I became a music major, instead.
It’s not that I didn’t love acting. I just didn’t love it enough to invite that amount of rejection and anxiety into my life, when so many people told me I wasn’t going to be able to handle it. That only ‘the toughest’ could truly made it. (Tough isn’t a word I’d use to describe my young adult self.)
Fast forward 20ish years, and I’ve now chosen to follow my love of writing, even though it’s filled with possibly far more rejection. Why the change of heart, you ask? Well, I’ve been thinking lately about the whole ‘thick skin’ thing. And I’ve decided, I just don’t buy it.
I just don’t.
Ya see, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s not at all what I thought it was.
I mean, I’m a sensitive person. I cry at movies. I cry at books. Heck, I cry at commercials and You Tube videos. I cry. I’m a crier. It’s who I am.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have ‘thick skin’. Because, really, what is it? All those years ago when well meaning people began giving me warnings about the industry, did they really mean that I should develop a hard heart and to become ruthless, and self serving to get to the top?
Ok, maybe some did 🙂 But not most, in my opinion. Here are my thoughts:
Rabbit trail #1: Recently, I was at a writers meeting and heard a speaker talk about what each of us wanted from our writing this year. Was it to be published? If so, we were likely headed for disappointment. Then she told us to change our perspective. What if we desired to receive 75 rejection letters?
Whoa, right? To receive 75 rejection letters would mean I’d have to send out far more than 75 queries, since not all queries are even acknowledged. And to send out that amount of queries would drastically raise the bar in receiving some sort of interest from a professional somewhere in the world of writing, right?
Rabbit trail #2: Just a few days after thinking on this, I also watched a documentary on food. In it, the presenter suggested we as a society change our way of thinking about ‘diets’ to include food, instead of eliminating food. His point was, if we concentrate on the negative – eating less of the stuff we want – we will fixate on that and abandon the diet. But if we focus on the positive – add more produce and good stuff, so we aren’t hungry for the bad – then we’ll be more likely to succeed.
Bam! This was exactly what I’d been mulling over regarding writing! If I make rejection a positive thing, then maybe there’s no need to worry over that ‘thick skin’.
Or more importantly, I realized ‘thick skin’ isn’t that calloused, selfish person I thought I had to be. Maybe having ‘thick skin’ is really just about maturity. Growing up and accepting the fact that failure comes just the same as success. And sometimes waiting for that success makes those failures all the sweeter.
It’s all about perspective. And now that’s I’ve changed mine, I realize there’s no need to develop any kind of skin – thick or thin. I’ve already got exactly what I need. I’ve got perspective.
How about you? Have you ever been told to grow some thick skin? What was your reaction? I’d love to hear in the comments below!