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Is Your Skin Too Thin?

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:56 AM
A lot of writers on this site fantasize about having a book published someday. But even if you don't, pretty much everyone still posts for an audience, even going so far as to hope for honest feedback.

Hell, who doesn't like improving?

If you are honestly truly really, after much introspection, writing only for yourself and not particularly interested in critical feedback, I would skip this. There's no point.

Here's the thing: improving depends on having some thick skin. How do you know if you're there? Read on below.



Self-Assessment



Please imagine these comments directed at you, most likely in an email (though hopefully not the same email), about your favorite and most polished work ever, the one that you'd like to see on the front page of the New Yorker or with a prologue by Neil Gaiman or something. IDK man. Poets, fill in whatever you need here.

  • Your work is too long and boring.
  • This is absurd and uninteresting.
  • This is not funny.
  • Not for us, thanks.
  • This won't sell.
  • The language is too difficult.
  • I really wish this had a different ending.
  • This would be better without the title character.
  • The concept sounded interesting, but this failed to hook me.


IF even a single one of these would make you feel bad for longer than five minutes, or if you'd honestly stop writing or dump the whole story and never come back to it because of a comment like this, your skin is too thin.


Many things were rephrased to make them more universally applicable, but the point is that even though you're likely to just get a polite and 100% generic response (thanks, it's not for us at this time, please keep submitting), this totally happens in the real world and either you deal with it or GTFO because you're not ready for the deep end of the pool.


(I should mention that 'dealing with it' doesn't just mean moving on, it might also mean being like 'oh shit they're right' and editing or even rewriting the damn thing.)



Sources:


HOW DO I GROW A THICKER SKIN????


Dude, I got no fuckin' idea. The process probably differs from person to person. For myself…baby, I was born this way.


Since I can't keep my trap shut, though, here are some ideas, many of which just boil down to 'real world is real.' Also, I probably didn't phrase these very nicely, which is fine 'cause I'm not a very nice person. Feel free to suggest things that've worked for you and I'll swap this section out.




Anyway, the thing about any art form is that it doesn't have to be held to any standards but those of your audience.

So, please answer this: Whom are you writing for?


Some thoughts on writing, taking criticism, and that thing we like to call "the real world." These probably apply outside of writing, too, but I don't do much there so I'm not going to pretend I know what I'm talking about. Also, the publishing industry is a lot more consolidated: there's no single place artists turn when they want to be in print.

Most rejections are really just polite form responses (which of course people get depressed about too), here is a place you can see what they look like: [link] and for historical interest [link]

^Beccalicious suggested the discussion question. Thank you Becca.
Original journal skin: [link]
GIFs pulled from ^pica-ae's Tumblr. :love: Honestly though I didn't like Thor's redesigned costume at all.

:new: `raspil linked this blog on resilience, criticism & rejection to me a while ago. Forgot about it until just now, but here you go.
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:iconloona-cry:
Loona-Cry Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent article and definitely something everyone should keep in mind, including professionals. :)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks :D
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:iconchristalkitto:
ChristalKitto Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I think my first piece of constructive criticism came from you. I let the piece set for awhile and then when I came back to it I could see what you were talking about. Its gone through to rewrites or further expansion. Since yours I have found in a sadistic way to enjoy seeing others tear a story a new one. The end result is normally 10x better than the original.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome :w00t:

Hahahahaha, it is fun.
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:iconkaizokushojo:
KaizokuShojo Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013   Traditional Artist
I like the bit about possibly even needing to rewrite. Some people get so hung up on "oh I like it how it is" when it actually DOES need a rewrite that works don't improve and trash ends up circulating. XD
I remember in about 2002/2003 or so, I put a work up and someone said, "This character is a mary-sue" and explained it a little bit--they didn't even have to go into detail. I was annoyed for about one minute before I was like, "Snap, they're honestly right," and I took that idiotic sucker right off the internet. And I was all the better for it, learning from my mistake. =P
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:nod: Seriously, there are times when you have to just suck it up and say 'I love this and it's not gonna work.'

Ooooh, nice!
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:icontortilladelpeligro:
TortillaDelPeligro Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them." ~Immanuel Kant

"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand." ~Vince Lombardi

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~Eleanor Roosevelt
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Nice quotes! I think the last one is my favorite. :nod:
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:iconhurricaneclaw:
Hurricaneclaw Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice, love it~ Why am I writing? For fun. :la: And it's not fun if I don't improve, ya know.

I'm weird and kinda pathetic with that now that I think about it. I love giving and getting critiques, but I'm horrible at applying them to my work in the long-term. Plus, on some rare days I can't handle criticism at all, especially if it's said right to my face, which is more annoying than anything. I gotta work on my poker face:saddummy:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:highfive: seriously, stagnating is lame.

P-p-p-poker faaace! Also it could just be a matter of being like 'okay this is not a good day for criticism' and then saving it for later. Which granted you can't do so much with face to face.
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:iconhurricaneclaw:
Hurricaneclaw Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:la:

I usually mope for a few minutes - a half hour at best, and then realize I'm an idiot and forget being sad, although face to face I can't exactly leave it and come back.
I'll just have to go out there, embarrass myself, and eventually be able to get my stuff torn apart without feeling bad :dummy:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:giggle: Awww.

Yeah, I figure after vomiting in front of other people a few times there's not much left to embarass myself with. :B
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:iconhurricaneclaw:
Hurricaneclaw Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'd probably just stammer and flail and cry and nobody would talk to me ever again. :B
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:lmao:
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:iconjames--steele:
James--Steele Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Oh speaking of skin-thickness in other areas (that sounds kind of wrong now that I write it out), I have more experience with dealing with criticism in music-world. I'm not prolific enough yet to be criticized, but I have had plenty of criticism from my various mentors.

For this one chamber music piece I played, my chamber music mentor sent me (and the violinist) a four page email detailing how terrible it was and exactly what we needed to fix. I had to swallow it, but overall it didn't affect me nearly as hard as it did the violinist. I actually almost found the whole thing funny. (not that I didn't take the criticism seriously. We did end up fixing everything and had a good performance)

I have fairly thin skin when it comes to writing though. It's not that I take it personally, but I always cringe when reading criticism on my work. Though I just swallow it and take in the criticism into my next work. (and fix the criticized work where I can :giggle:)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh myyyy :eyes:

Holy shit that's hardcore. How do you even get to four pages. (Note: I have near-zero musical experience. I'm amusingly tone deaf.)

I'd call that a thick skin :P I mean, it's not like I see criticism and puff out my chest and move on, it's just that you either deal with it or don't improve.
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:iconjames--steele:
James--Steele Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Mostly riddled with strange remarks like "part xyz sounds like your leg is stuck in a coffin" etc. I have no idea how she came up with these things. :wtf:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:lmao: holy shit she had way too much fun with this.
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:iconjames--steele:
James--Steele Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I think so. :faint:
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:icondawnsentinel:
DawnSentinel Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013
I used to be a wimp, but then one day I thought "ya know, it isn't really that bad" and shrugged it off. Listening to constructive criticism is always good, but if you take it as a personal attack...not good.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
You are not your art, regardless of how much emotional meaning it has. :highfive:
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:icondawnsentinel:
DawnSentinel Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013
Exactly! :nod:
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:iconnightlyre:
Nightlyre Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
The bad thing about genericizing the comments is that you never really know how it feels until someone shreds a piece of your work that you've poured time, heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, coffee, etc. into. You never know the quality of the iron until it's been in the fire.

I'm not positive it's possible to grow a thicker skin, but you and many of the commenters mentioned perspective. I honestly believe that is the thing that will help a sensitive person out the most - seeing it from a point of view outside of their own. In theory, it's a good skill for an author to pick up anyway, unless they never want to write characters with different brains than their own.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ha, that's absolutely true. Which makes this an extremely rough test, and more so indicative that you're sensitive if something this vague and impersonal bothers you, but not necessarily proof that you can handle a full blown ripping apart of your masterpiece. :nod:

Seriously. You won't have much of an audience if you've no perspective about it.
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:iconchaosthekitty:
ChaostheKitty Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You know, I don't understand why people expect to be published or to post their works online without someone seeing it and commenting. The publishing world (baring teeny bopper novels that are OBVIOUSLY catering to the younger generation, most of which haven't even read Animal Farm, Ender's Game or even any of the Tolken works) is HARSH AS FUCK. And by harsh, I mean unless you're spectacular, or have abnormally high connections, your work is going to go relatively ignored, passed by or scrutinized because of one thing or another. You have to have a thicker skin or else ever little nitpick, every little not positive (I don't mention negative because one: that is a given and two: because for some people, even neutral is negative) comment is going to get to you.

I've had several people tell me that they don't take critiques because they are their own worst critic. Really? If you were your own worst critique, pretty sure you wouldn't have any works up for anyone to see unless you think everything you post is high quality. Or you just have low standards. And these are the same people who believe that they could be published. I could go on for days about that, but I'll hop off that wagon before I go off on a tangent. Publishers are going to be harsh. They have to be. They need quality, not quantity.

Then again, I'm one of those people who would kill for someone to critique their work, so while I know I'm not in the minority, I know that constantly asking for critiques is seen as kinda off around here for some reason.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Don't ask me, it makes zero sense :P

Ha, yeah. That said, some people can be too thickheaded...like your following example because WTF even :stare: You should be your own harshest critic, but if that's the case, why the fuck are you posting anything less than what you're willing to show the world at all? Presumably if someone critiques you, you should be like AW YES LEVEL UP.

It's a business.

Speaking as someone who used to be nice about giving them out, a) thin-skinned people or people who don't do shit with a 250-word critique; b) getting zero return beyond a 'lol thanks'; c) needing to get other shit done are all reasons I don't respond to critique requests so much anymore. But personally the big one is b), a lot of people are like 'oh nice' and have a zero track record of giving crits themselves. Which...it doesn't have to be on me, but if you're gonna demand crit, be willing to pay it forward.

Anyway, /rant :B
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:iconchaosthekitty:
ChaostheKitty Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It doesn't. It's one of those more baffling (damn I love that word) nonsensical things.

Unfortunately for some people, they take a freestyle dive from accepting critiques and knowing your own faults, to being cocky little dorks whose works start to degrade further because they think their shit don't stink. Damnit, now I want to make a stamp that stays "Someone critiqued you? LEVEL UP!"

Yup. It's a business. Quality sells FAR BETTER over quantity. Now, if you can sustain the world/story/universe and make more stories that are quality shit, then quantity will help too. But I guess some people don't understand business ethics.

Oh, I stopped being completely nice when giving out critiques after my best friend attacked me, my character, my stories and my personal tastes in literature after she asked me to read a story and tell her what I thought about it, including letting me redline it. I was absolutely truthful when I told her that it was beyond creepy for a sex scene to take up an entire chapter, let alone there be six of them in the story so far. The level of detail in the chapters went from being too much to being downright headache inducing. I absolutely love giving critiques. I see it as a fresh pair of eyes helping find things that could flow better or things that could be worded better, etc.

Rant some more! It's a downright pleasure to read.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, it's a great word.

:lmao: This sounds like a fantastic stamp. Yeah, if you're literally only keeping a journal I don't care if you stagnate, but getting worse is just depressing.

Truths! I get kind of amused when people are like RAGE MEYER because hello, the woman clearly knows how to hook her audience. She's bad at style, not content.

Holy friggin shit fuck that noise. And yeeeeeeah wow. Even the erotica I've read has not had sex scenes that go that long. Buildup ftw.

Team rant!
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:iconchaosthekitty:
ChaostheKitty Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I like using words that can be emphasized like baffling.

And I will get to work on that stamp. Getting worse with your art because you don't want to work at it is like losing a life on a video game because you refuse to jump over that hole in the floor and prefer to keep trying to run across it. After the fifteenth time of watching you make the same mistake even after someone's told you another way that works, the people watching you play are going to get tired and bored enough to leave.

While I dislike Meyer for reasons, mainly the bastardizing of one of my favorite races (yeah, I love vampires and monsters in general) into sparkle fairies, I have to admire her for the sheer fact that despite all of that, she had teeny boppers and soccer moms eating out of her hands. And she's rolling all the way to the bank because she could keep the story up. As for the movies...yeah, let's not go there.

Fuck that noise is right. I literally Nope'd right the fuck out of there, let her throw a temper tantrum (of course, I did record it and played it back for anyone who came charging at me like a mother bear protecting it's young) and then let her see how much of an ass she was being over a critique she asked for. And best yet was the fact that her own sister called her out for being a pretentious shit. Oh, and believe me, her scenes were full on "John Waters in your Bushes with a Camera and Toys" off the wall.

Whoo hoo!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome :dummy:

Haha, right?! And she's not the thickest skinned person, but it's not like she's given up on life just because no critical reviewer (I think/hope) gave her work a good rating.

:lmao: impressive.
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:iconkt-245:
KT-245 Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013
I agree with you completely.

At a certain point, however, it is important to have some confidence in ideas, concepts or accomplishments you strongly feel are valid. If you just let others push your ideas around, you will end up creating something that isn't interesting to you or anyone else. Write your own stories, draw your own pictures, sing your own songs, not just the ones others want to read/see/hear. You will always be failing, but you can't lose hope in what brings passion to your work just because someone rips into it. It's a fine line to walk, but I have found that I can't work solely around other people's criticisms. You NEED a little confidence to create good work, and this often means not only taking criticism but standing up to it.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:la:

Oh seriously, and I think that might actually help build a thick skin. Because you know you have a good concept at heart, it's the execution that might be a bit flawed. :salute:
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:iconnemonsters201083:
NEMonsters201083 Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I don't have a thin skin,neither thick (though i need it sometimes),but a "dry" skin.I
don't write for anyone,i write because i'm a visual person.Everything i see around me it gives me an idea,even when i see the society and my own person.I love sharing my imaginations,visions and fun throught literature to the audience.
I'm an eccentric writer,but i always try not to care about the feedbacks or not having much comments(there were times that i honestly went to a point that i couldn't stop caring about it).
But i must keep going on,with my soul,my heart and without the eyes focusing on unworthy whatsoever flies.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:giggle: Dry skin doesn't sound like the worst thing ever.

If you're writing because you have the urge to write, I definitely wouldn't worry about feedback. It's about you, not the audience.
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:iconnemonsters201083:
NEMonsters201083 Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're absolutely right,it's about myself :nod:
I shouldn't worry then.
LOL yeah dry skin,i consider myself dry when it comes to not doing anything for anyone,but for me.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:la:

That's an interesting way of putting it!
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:iconschriftsteller:
schriftsteller Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013   Writer
I must have a thin skin because even the tone of this made me cringe a little. The points are all valid, though, so I can't complain. I've been lucky and haven't been rejected yet, but I'm still waiting for the soul crush. Thanks for writing this with the .gifs-- they make it easier to bear haha. I want to know who said "Your work is long and boring" because that's sort of hilarious since it's not happening to me-- I'm not sure what publisher would actually write that to an author. Great article!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, that is pretty thin! I'm a moderately sarcastic person by default but this is my relatively nice voice. (And yes, the GIFs help, but you have to keep that a secret :shh:)

I can't remember, but that's one of the article ones so the Huffington Post probably has it in there.
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:iconschriftsteller:
schriftsteller Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013   Writer
I think it has to do with the internet not being able to reflect inflections in voice and tone and such. I did get used to the tone, though.

Haha okay, your secret is safe with me!

Ah, alright. I just thought that was a very strange thing to say to someone. Rather blunt.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:nod: and that's gonna show up everywhere that you're not directly talking to people...so like probably a good 80% of publishing stuff :B

excelllllent.

they can be pretty blunt. I think communication has overall gotten politer because there's always the risk of it showing up online one day, although holy shit Stephen King on Stephenie Meyer and also Orson Scott Card everywhere.
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:iconschriftsteller:
schriftsteller Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2013   Writer
This is very true. I hadn't thought about that part yet.

I would assume so. You don't really want to be a dick when there's a chance someone could call you on it on a global scale. And seriously-- that shit is crazy!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:salute:

Haha, yeah. Of course Card only started doing it after he made shitloads, so...blah.
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:iconra-meenan:
RA-Meenan Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is awesome.

Considering my first "real" editor (i.e. the first person that actually gave me CRITICAL feedback rather than just "It's good.") told me "Get rid of the first eleven pages. They bore me," and I DID, and made the whole story better, I think I have a pretty thick skin.

I suppose it helps that, in the long run, I'm really more interested in making a story that I enjoy and if I don't publish, I really don't care in the long run. I love writing, and that will always come first.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:iconepichighfiveplz:

Not just a thick skin, a smart one!

Yeah, that's absolutely fair. Just don't expect everyone else to dig it :eyes:
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:iconra-meenan:
RA-Meenan Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Trust me, I don't. XD Though the people I have shared it with, including a few random students of mine, have seemed to really enjoyed it so far. =D

But yeah, I write because I love to write, and I'm always excited to improve my art. But if, in the long run, I can't make money off of it, oh well. I'm having fun, I love what I do, and that's all that matters.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:giggle: Students? What subject do you teach?

I started off being all shits and giggles, but getting pocket money for stuff is nice. (And also a pain in the ass, really only worth it if you want to invest all the time and energy.)
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:iconra-meenan:
RA-Meenan Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I teach English at the high school and university level, though next year I'm also getting a creative writing class. It's my DREAM class. I can't wait to teach it. =D

Sometimes I feel like the creative writing classes I took were pretty useless. They expected too much talent and didn't teach basics. Anyone can improve their basics with things like description, point of view, showing not telling, dialogue, and all that. But none of the many creative writing classes I've been in really did that.

I intend to change that with my own class. =D
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ooooh, awesome! :eager: I loved my creative writing class in HS, I could imagine it's also fun teaching those things. (Although there was a moment where the teacher decided not to explain what a 'bustier' was to this one kid....)

:dummy: We focused a lot more on what known authors had to say about the craft, small writing exercises, and analyzing short stories and that kind of thing. So there wasn't an enormous emphasis on writing, but the fundamentals of the process—save the advice for Strunk & White or King or whomever—were well-covered. And we read a variety of creative fiction and nonfiction. (I don't remember if there was poetry, but that gets covered more in regular English classes.)
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:iconra-meenan:
RA-Meenan Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I remember my HS creative writing class too. I wrote my first book there. It's hilariously terrible to read now, but I did end up creating the first character for my current book series in that class. XD Geez, that was ten years ago. I feel old.

Small writing exercises are a really great way to hone skills, which is why we'll be focusing on that a lot. XD
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oooooh awesome. :D Man, you don't want to know how long it's been for me! (Okay, I ended up mathing it in my head...eight years. Juuust kidding :giggle:)

Woo! And yeah, we had mandatory free writing at the start of class every day, which really makes you realize that writing isn't easy.
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