Friday Speak Out!: A Writer’s Thick Skin Can Still Get Pierced

Friday, April 08, 2016
by Jeanine DeHoney

I was ecstatic when I got an email that my second essay was going to be published on a popular parenting website. And I couldn’t wait to read the comments, which for my last article had been heartening as readers shared their own stories about the often taboo subject I wrote about.

The comments from this second article though hit a nerve. I sat down and broke the number one rule of thumb for a writer, which was don’t take it personally. My lip began to quiver as I took it to heart when one reader called me a name and another said she had a problem with my delivery as a writer. But then I pulled up my big girl panties and realized that’s the business of wearing your vulnerability on your shirt sleeve as a writer and went on to my next project.

Still it was difficult not to feel the residue left from other’s opinions about my writing. Especially when you put so much of your blood, sweat and tears in each paragraph.

As writers we are supposed to have a thick skin. Maybe not in the beginning of our writing journey but surely after our twentieth rejection. As we hone our skills and write on, we are supposed to let negative words not helpful constructive words, fall off of us like bathwater.

Most comments from editors and agents are for our benefit, but many times the comments from our readers, the ones we so want to embrace our work if they are harsh can chip at our surface and pierce our skin.

In this day of social media, where a response to your blog post, story or article comes with an emoji and a tap of a finger, we have to not let a harsh comment scatter our emotions or our desire to write.

My late mother always said that if you don’t have anything good to say then maybe you better not say it. Although my mother was the wisest woman I knew, I don’t fully agree with that statement. We have to say what is our truth if it will offer another insight. We can’t grow in wisdom and be successful if we cannot carry or offer the truth. Still we must be careful of our delivery.

Even when we may be thinking something that isn’t so nice, and who hasn’t, we must be careful in our delivery. Telling a writer she doesn’t know how to write, hummm, well even if she never published another story in her lifetime, you’d be wrong because all she does is write; with a baby sleeping in the crook of her arm, maybe after working a double shift, or taking care of an elderly parent.

We writers are human beings too you know. So keep the comments coming. We want to hear all points of view. That’s called dialogue but when you come after our intellect and wit and this great gift we are refining each day…that’s something else. We may have thick skin but those are fighting words. And luckily for you, we writers are a peaceable assemblage of creative weavers of words who fight with our pen.

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Jeanine DeHoney, wife, mom and grandmother "extraordinaire" has had her writing published in several anthologies, magazines and blogs including "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul," The Mom Egg, Literary Mama, Mused Bella online, Writing For Dollars, True Stories Well Told, Underwater New York, Mutha Magazine, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby and She was a 2013 finalist in the Brooklyn Art and Film Festivals Nonfiction Contest and the winner of that contest in 2014. 
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!


Jennifer Brown Banks said...


Good piece here. I can relate.
Keep writing and shining your "light."

As a pop singer tells us in one of her hit songs, "just shake it off!"

Much continued success in your journey.


W.W. Gleeson said...

Jennifer, there are people out there who are JUST NASTY or jealous or whatever, and they will intentionally say hurtful things about your work. I think there is a time to take it personally, only because they are doing it to insult or attack you personally. I've seen this myself with my own work. Of course, they'll never admit it, but you know the difference.

I even have three totally hostile writers I send stuff to sometimes cause I known they'll be over the top with sizzling crit and I want to see if they ever agree on anything. They never do!

Sheila Good said...

So many people hide behind anonymity on the internet. If someone doesn't have something constructive to say but are just choosing to spew venomous words, I ignore them. It's not worth my time. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

Unknown said...

Don't let the people that don't matter,ever matter,stick to your published stories and let them play the hater comments section beneath you! That's the only way they words could get published! Ha ha..keep writing and enjoying the ride to success, you deserve it more than anyone

Angela Mackintosh said...

I think the people that criticize so harshly are ones that have never put themselves out there in that way as a writer. If they had, they would know how to craft a comment that was constructive, not hateful.

But I have to say, for your article to get such a strong reaction from readers shows the power of your words. People actually stopped to read your essay and took time to comment. You made people think and feel strongly about something, and that is the main goal of every piece of writing.

Great post, Jeanine! I always enjoy your Friday Speak Outs. Keep up the passionate writing.

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