I have been painting and playing around with different techniques for years. Now, I want to sell my work and maybe even have a show, but I don’t know if it’s close to being good enough. I don’t want to put it out there if I’m not ready. How will I know? —Leah
I find a weirdly disproportionate number of these questions in the Thirtyish mailbag (a.k.a. my email inbox). Painting, drawing, writing, playing, and building are less immediately pressing than the daily WTFs of love, sex, work, and pals, but the apparent concerns of thirtyishes are very often things like: “How do I make art?”, “How do I make myself make art?”, and “How do I make myself want to make art?”
Comedian Sara Schaefer, whose show with Nikki Glaser, Nikki and Sara Live, debuts on MTV this month, says that you should be happy (I say that you should be thrilled) that you’ve already done the hard part—making art.
She says that in her field, “You have no choice but to do all of your work and growing in public,” which includes on-stage rejection in the form of post-joke silence and off-stage rejection in the form of everything else. “You get used to this aspect of it fairly quickly, or you quit. If you manage to stick with it, you start to discover something amazing: Those really painful rejections become the motivation for doing better.” What you’ve been doing almost by default—working alone, outside of a constant loop of exposure—is probably freeing in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t require any of the mental and emotional armour or afternoon stripper–level confidence that you need to be creative in front of people, and to make money doing it.
Schaefer suggests that you first show your work “in an invite-only situation for family and friends—people you trust. Ask for their feedback, and when they give it, be open to it and know that it’s coming from people who care about you.” Schaefer adds that social media is also a good way to “show” your work. “You’ll immediately feel the rush of a ‘like’ or a ‘favourite,’” she says, although you might also “become obsessed with negative comments.” Even when you’re confronted with all of that noise—and it arrives when you do anything you care about—take what’s useful, leave what’s dumb and jealous, and refocus on just doing your work and on how you’re still ahead of almost everybody else who wants to.
I’m a single guy and I like to chat at work, but I often feel that the women think I’m hitting on them. I’m not—I’m just bored with my job and see a chat as a way to kill some time. I’m not talking about endless chatter, just brief kitchenette encounters. What are some subtle ways I can let these people know that it’s a no-go? —Trevor
Hang on. Why do you think that women think you’re hitting on them? Are they pushing you into supply closets and anxiously popping their blouse-buttons after your kitchenette tête-à-têtes? Probably not. I would bet that they know you aren’t hitting on them per se, because women know more about what it’s like to be hit on than you do. There is, of course, an outside chance that you’re among the small percentage of guys who doesn’t understand his own powers, so maybe they do think (or hope) that you’re laying down some moves. But, yeah: probably not.
Either way, you’re not into them, so review your professional conversation style. Keep it friendly, positive, hands-off, and PG (not PG-13, understand?). Pull back if you think you’re either sending the wrong message or making anyone less than totally comfortable and happy to be around you. And maybe reconsider the basis of all of this: If you’re so bored at work that you are actively “killing time,” update your resumé instead of coffee-talking.
Have a question for Kate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.