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Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Speak Out!: Could You Please Beat Me With This Rejection Letter?, Guest Post by Jackie Bouchard

Could You Please Beat Me With This Rejection Letter?

by Jackie Bouchard

Have you heard that writers need thick skin to survive in publishing? I certainly have, and it’s bad news for me and my wafer-thin skin—so thin you could read this blog through it.

I’ve signed up for classes, attended conferences, read writers’ magazines, bought books on publishing; but, I’ve never seen instructions on how to thicken one’s hide. Perhaps the experts who tout the skinny-skinned-people-need-not-apply advice believe it can’t be taught. Or maybe they think that any writer with a feeble film of flesh will wither and die at the first sign of rejection, so there’s no need to teach these skills.

But I’m here as proof that thin-skinned writers may indeed wither, but we don’t die. We don’t curl into balls that get batted under the bed by the cat, never to be heard from again. (Luckily, I don’t have a cat.) I’m still here, still writing. As evidenced by these very words. And my nerves and muscles (and yes, OK, my fat too) are still in place, even if barely held together by a diaphanous layer of flesh.

Still . . . I’d like to toughen up a bit, so I’ve developed a three-step plan:

1. I’ll call myself names in the mirror each morning—the opposite of a daily affirmation. “No-talent hack!” outta do. But I won’t believe it! I’ll reply with the age-old rejoinder: “I’m rubber, you’re glue . . .” (This may get confusing since in the mirror both I and you are me. Maybe I’ll shout back “sticks and stones” instead.)

2. I’ll start a group for people with T.S.S.S. (Thin Skin Sufferers Syndrome). We’ll meet weekly (and possibly also weakly) and sit in a circle, each beating the person to the left with rejection letters until we laugh in the face of such abuse.

3. No more drinking anything but alcohol. The severe dehydration will help me literally develop a crusty outer shell. Not to mention, I just won’t give a damn anymore.

Then again, maybe I won’t bother. After all, like I said, I’m still writing. OK, I’m not exactly making a living at it. Maybe I can’t even buy a pint of Cherry Garcia with my earnings, but I’m forming sentences and you’re reading them, and therefore I am a writer—of the thin-skinned variety!

I’m sure those experts are right: it’s better to be thick-skinned, to not care when people reject your work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to do it my way. I just have to accept that I’ll be a writer who often weeps into my pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

If you’ve thought of giving up because your last rejection letter made you feel kicked in your metaphorical literary gut, you may also suffer from T.S.S.S. Join me in ignoring the experts and shouting, “We don’t need thick skin to be writers after all!”

We may weep. We may whimper. But we write on.

* * *
When not working on her novel, Jackie Bouchard loves: reading, taking her dog to the beach, watching professional cycling, drinking margaritas, and hanging out with her hubby. Jackie dislikes: rejection and writing about herself in the third person. Connect with her on Facebook (Jackie Hanten Bouchard) and Twitter (@JackieBouchard).

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



  1. I'm thin-skinned, too. I like to claim I'm not, because all my other writer friends seem to be amazingly successful at shrugging off the negativity, but I am.

    I just have to process it. Absorb it, work through it, and then find someone to tell me I'm amazing in it's place. That's all ^_^

  2. You're not a real writer until you have a stack if rejection letters. So there. (I know of which I speak.)

    The art of self-talk, though, works better if you make positive statements: "I have the skin of an elephant. Rejection only makes me tougher. I am a great writer. The perfect agent/editor is coming my way."

    Keep writing!

  3. This made me laugh! :) Thanks for sharing, Jackie.

    I think your last line sums it up for most writers, whether thick or thin skinned - we hurt, we rage, we pout etc. but we always "write on."

  4. Thanks for a little humor on a touchy subject. I'm definitely a candidate for T.S.S.S. :)

  5. I tried to comment last night but the Internet ate it. It was incredibly witty, but I have no idea what I said.

    Here's the thing: If you keep writing, you're tough. You may not feel tough, but I know writers who don't send work out at all because the rejection thing is so painful.

    If you keep going, what else matters? Well, feelings matter. But they don't need to rule.

    So Kudos to all of us (I echo Madeline) who "hurt, pout, rage, but write on"!!


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