Oh, armadillos. They certainly aren't the prettiest creatures, now are they?
But that's okay--they have something much more important going on. Those ugly little critters have some of the thickest skin of any animal out there. As a writer, I can appreciate that--because one thing we writers absolutely must develop is a thick skin if we want to survive out there in the brutal publishing world.
Sure, we all think we know what's waiting for us: criticism, disappointment, rejection--and we all think we're ready for it. But let's be honest. Most of us are also secretly hoping it won't happen to us.
We all have that little voice in the back of our heads whispering to us (what? you guys hear voices right? Right?) that maybe we'll be the one-in-a-million case where we land an agent on our first try, they'll sell our book to the top publisher for a gazillion dollars and our book goes on to outsell J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer--combined. Hey, it can happen right?
Sure. And we might also get hit by a meteor the next time we walk outside.
The sad reality: we're going to get rejected. We're going to be criticized. We're going to hand our draft over to someone--pages we've poured our heart and soul into, spent hours and hours of our precious time on, pages that we love and think we finally have right--and they're going to mark the crud out of them and tell us to get back to work.
That's where the thick skin comes in. Rejection? Criticism? Disappointment? Ha!--doesn't even touch us through our thick armadillo armor. Or at least, that's the goal.
Personally, I've had a thick skin for a while. I always have to do things the hard way--claw my way up, so I'm kind of the queen of thick skin. For example, I started College when I was sixteen, and there were more than a few people (including one of my professors) who thought I wouldn't be able to handle it. But I pushed myself and pulled off straight A's.
Then I decided I wanted to go to film school--and not just any film school: USC--the number one Film School in the country. When I told the Transfer Center at my Community College that I was going to apply, they laughed. (sadly, I'm not making this up.) And while that definitely made me cry and doubt myself for a little while, I eventually decided I wasn't going to let them scare me. So I worked my butt off to keep straight A's, poured my heart into my portfolio, and applied. And I got in. On my first try. Oh, and they gave me a scholarship--one I didn't even apply for.
And then I got there and it was...brutal. It was basically two years of struggling to keep my head above water in a world where everyone knew way more about everything than I did and I didn't quite fit in (I told you guys my main project was about a lonely tumbleweed falling in love while everyone else was channeling their inner Tarantino, right?). And yet, I didn't quit or fail out. In fact, I graduated Magna Cum-Laude and had an internship all lined up to send me right down the Hollywood career path.
But, being me, I went the hard way. I walked away from Hollywood--from everything I'd worked so hard to achieve, moved to suburbia, and started writing young adult books. Most of my friends from film school thought I was crazy--and told me so. Good thing I had my armadillo thick skin.
So what am I trying to say? I'm honestly not sure anymore (hmmm, it was something about armadillos and revisions and--um...)
Oh, that's right!
See, I figured out what the secret to building a thick skin is. It's not tenacity--though that helps. It's not masochism--though I do think anyone trying to break into writing must be a tiny bit masochistic.
You have to believe in yourself, believe in your idea, believe that you can do it. That's what keeps you going when someone tells you that you can't, or that you aren't there yet, or that you have a lot more work ahead of you.
Know that you're good enough. Know that you can do the impossible. Oh, and be ready to listen to their counsel and work your butt off. And anytime you face a setback, dust yourself off and keep going. Sooner or later you'll get where you want to be.
That's the hope I'm clinging to, anyway. It won't be easy...but nothing good ever is, right?
So go ahead, call me an armadillo. I'll take it as a compliment--just as long as you don't say I look like one. :)