How thick is your skin?
Does what people say often affect your emotions? Good or bad. I know it does for me. But far less than it used to. This is partly from a deliberate cultivation of an impervious mindset, but mostly from being too busy creating to worry about the critics.
When I first started writing I was so worried about what people might say. I mean, my gosh, someone could disagree with me and then I’d look like a fool when they call out my glaring imperfections in public!
This mentality affected my writing. It was mostly safe, blocky, and insipid. Nothing too outlandish or controversial to merit any criticism of my ideas. The dull style though, was ripe for critique. Nobody took up the charge of demeaning me though because it was too boring to read all the way through and I was too pitiful to assault.
After writing these lackluster pieces for a while, the light of these truths began to dawn on me. If nothing I wrote ever pissed anybody off, then it would never light a fire in someone’s mind. To write good, meaningful prose one must make a stand. And standing in one place of ideas necessarily means that you are neglecting most other spaces of ideas.
So I began to write whatever the hell I felt like. Suicide? Check. Addictions? Sure. Farts, poop, controversial economics, and debauchery? Why not?
Some of these pieces even got published through third parties. This was the moment I relished. The comments section.
You may have noticed that I have it turned off for my personal website. This is deliberate. My blog is my canvas. It is my year of writing every day that I want to preserve as a piece of art to bettering my writing skills. Pretentious? Yes. But I don’t need random comments from drive-by assholes and internet sex bots throwing up click-bait advertisements on my canvas. And frankly, most people who comment on the internet are boring and just want attention.
So, I get to read the comments when my writing is published elsewhere. This is when I occasionally get excited. If there is a solid amount of vitriol and controversy in the thread I feel that I am doing my craft well. If there are just a few perfunctory “good job” comments and no hate, I get depressed.
Of course, I write for myself first and foremost, but I hope to someday inspire and create more thinkers like my writer forebearers have done for me. Call it a legacy or just a socially acceptable reason for locking myself in a room and touching a computer.
Nowadays, I don’t read the comments sections that much. I also don’t get published that much, so that makes it easier. But when I do read the comments I strive for about 50% discord and 50% more or less positive remarks. These positive reactions could range anywhere from confusion to praise. As long as it made people think about something in a way they hadn’t before. Making idea babies in other people’s heads through words I suppose.
To inspire creation one must inspire hatred. But that should not be the explicit goal. This requires thick skin and a driving reason to create. I’m not sure I, or anyone, can really teach this skill. It involves a juicy mixture of humility, experience, success, and mortifying failure. Then repeat. Again and again.
There is no impervious skin. Just because a battleship has skin thicker than a grape by orders of magnitude doesn’t mean it can’t rupture. But weakness is no reason to give up. Weakness is a reason to get stronger. Tougher.
Once you can endure more than most and have skin like a whale shark, you will surely be offending millions. That is when you know you are succeeding.