Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rhinoceros Skin - Every Writer's Must-Have

by Mindy McGinnis

I recently did a presentation about the path to publication that included a big fat picture of a rhinoceros, which always seems to set people back a bit. One of the first things I tell aspiring authors to procure for themselves is some rhinoceros skin. Don't actually go kill a rhinoceros and say Mindy McGinnis told you to do it before reading the rest of this post.

Rhinoceros skin is 1.5 centimeters thick - that's pretty thick skin. Even on our fleshiest parts (hands and feet) human skin is only about 4mm thick. Big game hunters in the early 1900's even believed that rhinos had bulletproof skin. This is not actually the case, but that particular myth has staying power- Kevlar backpacks have been dubbed Rhino Skin.

And this is the kind of protective layer you need to have covering your ego when it's time for feedback. Whether that is coming from your critique partners, casual readers, agents, editors, bloggers or professional reviewers, anything negative that anyone has to say about your book is going to sting a little. And stinging a little is just fine. In fact, even the rhino is used to it - the biggest threat to their skin is sunburn and insect bites. Rhinos cover themselves in mud to protect their skin from these threats, and then they move on with their lives.

These topical concerns can't kill you - in fact, much like the rhino you learn from them. But you can't allow the negativity about your work sink past your epidermis and get down into your organs where you can be fatally damaged by it. Your ego can take a bruising (in fact it's good for all of us) but a seeping lesion will drain the life out of you.

So put on your rhinoceros skin and roll around in some mud, at which point you'll be ready to face any negativity about your writing. And yes, you can say that Mindy told you to roll in the mud.
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. The companion novel IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases September 23, 2014. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and has serious social media problem. You can find her on TwitterTumblrFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest


Jane Jazz said...

Such a clever analogy Mindy! I have found it impossible to grow a thick skin, and usually hide away to repair the wounds when sharp words pierce it. I do manage to crawl back though (bounce isn't quite the right word!) and from now on I'll definitely roll in the mud each day to see if it makes me a bit tougher! Thanks for sharing :-) JJ

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thank you Jane! And yes, developing that skin is a step towards becoming a better writer. The more able you are to deal with criticism, the healthier you will be emotionally as well.

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