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Friday, June 9, 2017

The one thing you shouldn’t say to another artist

I hate the word “mindfulness,” but I’ve resolved to be mindful about offering unsolicited advice to my peers.
The Three Graces, available through Camden Falls Gallery. My to-do list includes painting more boats in the water.
I’m just smart enough to know when to ask other people for advice. It’s usually very helpful, and I have many friends I also consider to be mentors. Then there’s unsolicited advice. I’ve come to dread the phrase “you should…” It always means another project I don’t have time to finish.

That’s pretty ironic coming from someone who teaches. Much of my time is spent saying “you should…” to my students. I can justify that by saying that my students sought my help. But I’m starting to think that “you should…” is the least helpful and most corrosive way of framing ideas.

Dawson City, Yukon. My undone list also includes finding a venue for the paintings from my Trans-Canada trip.
“You should…” isn’t an offer of help. It often ignores the realities or ideas that prevent someone from doing what the speaker thinks needs doing. 

“I already know I’m failing on a daily basis, because of the things I don’t get done,” an artist friend said recently. “I don’t need any help seeing that.”

Most professional artists are one-man shows. We do our own marketing, publicity, office work, and cleaning. Non-artists would be shocked at the number of hours we work, especially when our work seems to progress slowly.

I should put my remaining urban paintings on sale on the internet, since they're unlikely to sell in a gallery here on the Maine coast.
I use Bobbi Heath’s organizational system, here, to manage my work flow. Bobbi was a successful project manager in the corporate world. Her system is similar in concept to that which my husband’s software development team uses, although they don’t have cute Post-it notes. My calendar is computerized, as is my bookkeeping.

In other words, I’m as organized as I ever will be, and I still can’t get everything done. In fact, I have a standing to-do list that’s far longer than the working hours in my week. When I add another task to it, something else has to come out.

A great frame in its place, but its place isn't here.
One of the big “you should…” tasks on my list is changing my frame style. What worked in New York is too heavy and formal for Maine.

I have a plan for a stunning, light floater frame, drawn for me by artist Ed Buonvecchio. A friend showed me another frame, with a wood liner, that is equally airy. I have the woodshop in which to build either style. What I don’t have is the time to do the work. So I ordered a different gold frame for the 2017 season, and my real update will have to wait another year.

There’s a lesson in this for me. I hate the word “mindfulness,” but I’ve resolved to be mindful about saying “you should…” to my peers. Is there a better way to express the idea? Should the idea be left unspoken? Does this person want my input, or would simply listening be more helpful?


Poppy Balser said...

Hi Carol

Communicating is hard.

Instead of "you should... " how about "what are your thoughts about...?" or "have you considered...?"

Years ago I learned an expression from my mother for those days when the to do list felt overwhelming: "I will not should on myself today" One could equally extend it to a resolution to not "should on" others, either.

Good luck with your rephrasing project

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you, and thanks to your mom. I am glad I am not the only one who feels this!

Annette Koziol said...

I love how you realized, probably without knowing to begin with (I can only imagine) that you had to make a really significant change in displaying your art. I'm not sure how I could do that. I'm not an artist so my mind doesn't shift like yours does, but that is fascinating to me. I would not have thought of that. Thank you for sharing.

Carol Douglas said...

Oh, it just comes from thinking about something all day, every day.

Fay Terry said...

A long time favorite of mine is "Don't should on
anyone, and don't let anyone should on you."
I could write a comment every day because I enjoy your blog so much, but,alas, I don't always get it done! Love ya', Carol!

CWood-Wilson said...

I had a therapist once say to me: "Thou shalt not should on thyself." I remind myself of that on a daily basis. Should implies guilt. What is there to feel guilty about when you do the best you can at any given moment in time? There is no good reason that I know of to heap that extra load of guilt on myself or anyone else, ever.

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you all. I have never heard the expression "should on" before, and I thank you for introducing it. I hope others read your wise words, friends!