You've heard the phrase I'm sure, "Gotta grow some thicker skin..." or something to that effect. In the writerly world, growing thicker skin is directly connected to being critiqued, whether it be by fellow writers, readers or fans. It's an easy enough phrase to spit out, "I've got to grow some thicker skin and stop being such a baby!" but it's damn hard, no, impossible, to just do on command.
In my experience, there are a few phases of "being" that a writer must go through or experience in order to work on developing that thick skin.
Phase one: I've been a part of an awesome writing group for a little over a year and a half now. Before that I'd get crits from well-meaning family members who, although they plead otherwise, really are just biased ego-strokers. Ego-strokers are good and they do serve a purpose. We need those people to point out our talent and stoke our passion for the craft. They are the teachers, the friends, the family members who may not be "experts" in the field but have the sense enough to recognize when someone "has it." The ego-strokers are a great bunch, we like them, they're safe, but if we want to grow as writers then we must leave the nest and venture out to see what the world thinks of our writing. Scary, I know, but absolutely necessary.
Phase two: Finding a CP (crit partner) and or writing group is the next, very necessary step in growing that thick skin. These people are the ledge-talkers...the ones who you trust to talk you off the ledge when you're ready to jump. We ALL want to jump/give up/burn our computers/etc at some point. These people not only offer support but they're good critiquers. They tell it like it is, don't sugar coat and offer constructive feedback that you can actually use. They are there to cheer you on not tear you down. That's not to say you won't disagree with their feedback at times but that's the great thing about putting yourself out there (in a trusted environment) you can take what you will use and toss the rest. The important thing is opening yourself up to being honest with yourself, your work, your strengths and weaknesses and ACCEPTING that one person's opinion is subjective and really, it's your story in the end.
Phase three: Finding a mentor. This is typically a person who is further along in their writing career than you are. Someone who you respect and aspire to be like with regards to writing ability, work ethic, ambition, success, whatever. What has really surprised me the most about this industry is how many mentors are out there, wonderful writers who are willing to offer their support, their time, their opinions just to help a novice writer out. I've had the very fortunate experience of being critiqued twice by an author whom I greatly respect. I've also been critiqued by writers who are further along in their careers and can offer me much needed insight and perspective on my writing. I can't begin to thank these writers for how much they've helped me grow and even if I felt the sting (and I mean STING) of their critiques, it was a necessary trial to undergo on my journey towards becoming a better writer. So if you're lucky enough to find someone who is willing to help you, just know that they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't truly want to help you succeed. Yes, there really are people like that out there.
Growing a thicker skin takes time, it takes honesty with oneself, it takes acceptance, and it usually comes with experience. It's a necessary journey that all writers must venture even if it does hurt like hell at times. Trust me when I say with time it does get easier and you do become less sensitive to the criticism.
I just want to add one thing. I am very leery of anonymous posting and critting...I feel very strongly that if you can't put your name to your opinion then you shouldn't be sharing that opinion and that goes for writing especially. There are, unfortunately, souls out there who are tremendously jealous of anyone who they perceive has more talent or is further along than you are and will use their anonymity to destroy a writer's ego (and we all know how fragile that ego can be). So if you are desperate for critique, enter the public posting forums with extreme caution, a bad experience there can very easily leave your confidence shattered beyond repair.
I've got another e-copy of Going the Distance to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment and a way to contact you and I'll draw a winner next week this time!