Not too long ago, I was working on an article for a magazine — a straightforward trend story, where I was to interview a handful of manufacturers of a certain product and then write up a summary of my conversations. Easy as pie.
That is, until the moment when one of my calls happened to reach a marketing guy who had had a bad experience with a magazine request in the past.
Before I could even finish introducing myself, the guy started berating me, accusing me of running a scam and trying to deceive him when I asked about his products. He insisted that my innocent request for information was some sort of ruse intended to dupe him out of money, and he wasn’t going to fall for it again. He hung up on me after wishing me a good afternoon in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
I had never called the guy or his company before, so he was clearly confusing me with someone else, and I probably should have just shrugged the whole call off and proceeded with my work. But the weird thing was, it really upset me. I actually had to walk away from my desk for a couple of hours.
And then when I did get back to work, I was scared. If I hadn’t had a pending deadline, I would have continued to avoid going back to the article. For some crazy reason, I was actually internalizing what this guy had said about me. I kept expecting other people to blast me and hang up, and it was only after a few more successful phone calls that I was able to put the event behind me.
Coincidentally, it was right around this time that I also had a miserable exchange with an editor I know. I had just completed a rhyming picture-book manuscript that I had been playing around with for a year or so, and I had decided to send it to her and see what she thought.
I was completely unprepared for how much she hated it — and hate it, she did! The topic was not one she was interested in, she said to me in an email, and what’s worse, the meter didn’t hold up through the manuscript. Basically, to paraphrase her, it was a hot mess.
Again, I had to get up from my desk and walk away. And since there easy no deadline pending, I didn’t return to the manuscript, the way I did with the article.
As writers, I think, we embrace our sensitivity. We dig deep for true emotions and authentic reactions in our characters. But sometimes, I have to say, it would be nice to have skin that’s thicker.
I’m currently finishing up the article, and it’s turning out well. As for the picture book, I’ve yet to look at it and still don’t know if I ever will be able to.
What do you think? Can writers grow thick skins? Would it help us? Should we try?
Another battered day in the life of just another working writer.