Monday, April 13, 2009

Writers With Crocodile Skin

By Ali Cross

Do you have crocodile skin? If you do you might want to look into a good moisturizer. But if you’re a writer, having crocodile skin can be a very good thing.

I’ve mentioned that I belong to a critique group. I am also a member of Authors Incognito which includes a group of writers who are willing to critique for other members. However, at last year’s LDStorymaker’s conference, a class was given on the importance of meeting as a critique group and it prompted me to give it a try.

I am an adoptive daughter of the technological age, so I generally prefer to do things via the internet and my computer. Meeting up with a group of people, strangers even, and inviting them to not just read my work but to comment on it, was a bit disconcerting. Scratch that—it was terrifying.

We weren’t forming this group so we could tell each other how wonderful we all are. We were starting it so we could help each other be better writers, meaning, we would be giving criticism.
No matter that it has always been constructive criticism, and given to help the writer, not hinder her, it still hurts.

You know that saying “Make like a duck in water”? Well, writers need to make like crocodiles.
Crocodiles have thick scaly skin that wears like armor. But there are chinks in that armor—making it the perfect sort of skin for a writer.

As a writer, you need to have thick skin. You have to be able to let the bad advice or unhelpful criticism roll off your back, like a reptile in water, but you also have to be able to let the good advice slip in, like oxygen, through your thick scales.

Crocs aren’t pretty, to be sure, but make one your mascot and you’ll soon find yourself much more able to receive criticism without letting your tender parts get too damaged.

Fellow critiquers can be your best friends in your journey toward being published. Good critiques will help you tighten your work, get you over hurdles you can’t see your way around, and provide you with a wonderful camaraderie that will be a boon to you during times of struggle.

However, don’t forget to wear your crocodile skin when you head out to your next meeting—your friends aren’t there to rip you to shreds, they’re trying to help you. Take what’s good, and let the rest slide. But remember to be well fortified.


Carolyn said...

I am going to the conference for the first time in a week...I fear my skin may not be thick enough...

Karen Hoover said...

Awesome post, Ali, and so, so true! It's an image that I hadn't considered before and it's sometimes easy to let the dagger of critique do its damage. I'll start working on my crocodile skin!

Carolyn V. said...

I love going to conferences! I always feel so inspired to keep going.

My critique group is the best thing that happened to me. They really help me see things that I may have goofed up on, and they make a tremendous difference in how well my piece turns out.

Excellent post! =)

Noble M Standing said...

The only problem is finding writers either in your area. Or writers that fit well with you online. I live in a remote area, and have an online group but it needs members, we just dont have enough.

But your right, you need a thick skin you have to be able to accept that your work needs improvement and that someone else can look at it with fresh eyes.


LexiconLuvr said...

I love my critique group. I couldn't live without them. (Well, I could but who would want to?)

I agree about the crocodile skin because even in the world's most fabulous critique group, people have tough days. Some days, I'm more sensitive than other and I just need to buck up. They're not critisizing ME, they're helping my WORK become better. And that's something I can't stick a pricetag on.

Great post!

Ali Cross said...

Carolyn ~ really? I know we've only 'met' each other, but look for me and I'll look for you. Once you see a friendly face you'll find it's not so bad!

Karen, Carolyn, and Lex ~ you are SO right! I'm glad you love your groups and that you've seen the value of them.

Noble ~ I'm sorry that you are in that situation. One of my good friends, a writer, lives in a small town with no writers around. It's a frustrating position to be in. I feel for you! You can still work on that croc skin of yours ~ you'll need it for when you get published!

Keith Fisher said...

Yep Crodile skin . . . thats why I feel skinned all the time. :)

my group is very good to help each other and support each each other. they ladies in my group are very patient and teach me how to write for women. its very humbling, but I'll end up a better writer some day.