This is a repost from another blog I’ve long ago abandoned. Inspired to repost today by a comment in the Minecraft subreddit where the top comment on a really fabulous creation was, “you need a real hobby or a job.” Anyway, here are my thoughts:
People sometimes think the most insulting thing you can say to a creative person is, “I don’t like it.” And while that may sting a bit, most of us understand that creating something and sharing it means accepting some negative feedback.
In reality the most insulting comment is, “You have too much time on your hands,” or “Must be nice to have time to do that.” See, negative feedback means you at least looked at it, evaluated its merit and offered a quantitative or qualitative opinion. That’s not insulting. The casual dismissal of effort is far more insulting.
I’m sure you’ve seen it, you’re browsing Reddit or Digg or Youtube or whatever user-submitted-content-comment-heavy site you prefer, and someone shares, say, a video of the boulder sequence from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” rendered entirely in papercraft*, and within the first 5 comments someone pipes up with the following observation:
“Someone has too much time on their hands.”
Somehow that comment is more insulting and cutting and crushing than any possible critique of technical execution or loyalty to the source material. We creatives can defend our artistic direction, but when our work is dismissed as the result of misused and maybe undeserved idle time, it’s like a slap in the face.
I’ll give a more concrete example. I’ve shared my crochet characters here and elsewhere online. I’ve received great feedback and I’ve enjoyed seeing what other Lost and Mad Men and Firefly fans and yarn-addicts have created. Back when they were newly finished I brought my Li’l Losties into work to put them on my desk and almost immediately a coworker approached to investigate. She asked for a few details, told me it was a “weird” project (no argument there), and then she said it: “You have too much time on your hands.”
The thing is, I don’t have too much time on my hands. Who does? I work full time, commute an hour each way, and I have 2-year-old twins to care for. I get a couple hours after the boys are in bed each night to do something, ANYTHING, and most of the time that anything-thing isn’t very fun. It’s laundry or working out or running to the grocery store. And that’s after an exhausting commute, cooking and serving dinner, passing toddlers through bath and bedtime routine, no fewer than 5 bedtime stories, and several return trips upstairs to escort newly potty-trained children to the bathroom.
I scrape together a few, brief free moments when I can tackle a project, and that may mean staying up an hour later and going to work extra tired the next day if necessary. That’s how it works with creativity, it’s not a result of lounging around idle time. It’s the result of ideas that beg to be brought into reality, for whatever reason, purely for the joy of creation. We’re not lazy layabouts with nothing to do, we’re people who cram creative time in when we can. It’s the mortar between blocks of busywork.
I haven’t yet been able to come up with a good response to the “too much time” remark. The polite thing would probably be to ignore the comment, but sometimes I feel like it deserves a response. I told my coworker that it was a better use of my evening time than zoning out in front of the TV and doing nothing. It was my attempt to point out to her that we all have time to be creative, if you don’t waste it on being uncreative. Her response was a sincere, “Oh I don’t know about that…”
So maybe there’s nothing that can be said to these people. If they’re sure zoning out slack-jawed at “Two and a Half Men” is fulfilling and, more importantly, less indicative of “too much free time,” I’m not sure there’s any response that would be worth saying.
What’s important is that we know it’s worthwhile. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. It’s not what you build that matters, it’s the building. Additional poetic image not found.
(*Note: not a real example. Don’t go searching YouTube for this mythical video.)