B&N Week 61: Grow A Thick Skin

Created on February 20, 2012 and written by
Category: Bolts & Nuts (Syndicated Column)

Straight talk only on Tuesdays.

Yes, okay, I’m in a Freddy Krueger state of mind. I need to watch Nightmare on Elm St 3: Dream Warriors again. Yes, all the movies are bad after the second one, but you have to admit that Freddy was funny.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for Bolts Nuts! This week, I’m going to talk about growing a thicker skin. You’re going to need it, let me tell you.

What does growing a thick skin mean? It means not letting things get to you. It means not going off on tirades when things don’t go your way. It means never letting them see you sweat.

Let’s say you’re an artist, and you hand your portfolio over to an editor that you’ve been standing in line for hours to see, in hopes of getting a job. You hand it over, and the editor tells you that you need to work on anatomy, perspective, and storytelling, and that you shouldn’t ink yourself because you’re destroying your pencils.

You, however, are Graeme McFreelancer, and instead of taking the advice, saying thank you, and walking away, you get all butt-hurt, and throw a little tantrum, making sure your name is remembered in a bad way, and ensuring you won’t get a job anytime soon.

Or, you’re writer Kletus Jerkovitch, and you manage to get a first issue of Pen-Man into the hands of an editor, who promises to read it and get back to you. The editor does, and tells you that you need to work on characterization, dialogue, storyarc, pacing, and making sure the story makes sense.

Instead of saying thank you and working harder at getting better, Kletus gets butt-hurt and sandy as well, also being remembered for the wrong things.

Don’t do this. Don’t do it. Learn to say “thank you,” and even if you aren’t, at least sound sincere when you say it, and then leave it be. Don’t take to the internet in any capacity to show just how raw your butt is. Don’t. It will only succeed in making you look bad, and then you won’t get the work you’re looking for.

You need to get a thick skin.

A couple of years ago, I was on Digital Webbing. The Writer’s Showcase was dead, so I thought I’d liven it up some with a couple of pitches I had sent to my editor. I was unable to sell the pitches, not because they weren’t good, but because the editor was having a hard time placing books in the trade book market. One was a romance, and another was something in the horror vein.

The posters at DW ripped the pitches to shreds. Part of it was misunderstanding the market that the pitches were for, but most of it was in retaliation against me for being “mean” to writers who posted their scripts.

Know what I did? I said thank you. I attempted to explain, but they weren’t hearing it. They wanted what they wanted, and that was that. Did I get upset? Sure did. Did I let them see me sweat? Sure didn’t. I said thank you for your thoughts and your criticisms, and I kept it moving. I didn’t try to defend, I didn’t try to retaliate. I kept it moving.

This is the information age, folks. The internet age. Once you put something online, it’s there forever. You can try to delete it, but more than likely there’s an archive of it somewhere. Once you put it online, you’re stuck with it. Forever.

Here’s what’s going on, folks. You’re in a competition, whether you know it or not. You’re in a competition with everyone else who wants to break into comics, as well as those who are already in and are making them. If you’re trying to get work at Marvel or DC, then you have to be a cut above the rest, and even then, you have to elbow your way in. I personally know a guy who has a check from Marvel for a short story he wrote. He made it to The Show. And you know what? No one’s calling him back to continue making comics fro them. Instead of getting pissed off and taking to social media and airing out the fact that he can’t break the barrier again, he’s out there getting his hustle on. Butt-hurt and sandy? Not where the public can see it.

Why is it a competition for those jobs? Because the jobs are extremely finite. Literally, Marvel and DC could employ twenty writers between them, and have both of their universes covered. That’s ten apiece. Obviously they hire more than that, but they don’t need to if they don’t want to. Ten apiece. And what are the odds of you making it into that extremely rarified air? [Artists, you’re a little different. Gone are the days when an artist could handle two books a month. Most can barely handle one. The reason for that is because the art is more complex to create. That takes time. Most of today’s artists can barely hold a monthly schedule. That’s why some titles have a rotating team of artists that work on storyarcs.]

So, if you’re in competition for the jobs, what makes you think an editor is going to hire you if you’re thin skinned? You may be talented, but when the first internet poster blasts you for incorrect characterization, or what they think is bad storytelling, you’ll fly off the handle, responding from a very unstable, emotional place, instead of waiting and thinking it through.

If you’re on someone’s radar, they’re going to be checking you out: your blog, whatever social media you’re on [Twitter, Facebook], and possibly even the forums you frequent. Editors want to get a sense of who you are and what you’re like. If you’re thin skinned and blasting everyone who’s trying to be helpful, then you’re going to be slow in your development. Being thin skinned is a headache editors don’t need. They have too many other things on their plate to deal with you and your attitude.

Grow a thicker skin. Learn to say thank you, be sincere with it, and keep it moving. I know it hurts, and I know you think you’re just as good as anyone on the shelves now, and better than some. You may even be right about it. It doesn’t give you the “right” to go anywhere people will listen and talk about how wrong someone is for not recognizing your genius. Remember, you went there with your hat in your hand, looking for a job. They have the ability to give you the job, or to give it to someone else. If they see you’re easily hurt, then you’re more than likely not going to get the job.

Grow a thick skin.

Homework? None. Enjoy the break. See you in seven.

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