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Don’t ever say to an artist: “You must have a lot of time on your hands”

I beg people to never ever utter this phrase to an artist, “you must have a lot of time on your hands.” You may not realize it, but it’s extremely insulting to the artist. If you have said these words to me or someone else, you are forgiven. You didn’t know how offending these words are. I still love you. Because I love you, I’m giving your this advice.

“You must have a lot of time on your hands” is not a compliment saying, “wow, you spent a lot of time on this artwork. This is time well spent. How do you find time to make such great artwork?” Instead it says, “wow, you spent a lot of time on this artwork. What a waste of time.”

Yes. You are telling the artist, he is wasting his time. You are saying that your time is more valuable than the artist’s time spent making this artwork. You are saying the time spent on the artwork is worth less than your own time.

I’m trying to understand why someone would say “you must have a lot of time on your hands.” Four reasons come to mind:

1) You meant it as a compliment.

If you said this phrase in the past, you may have been expressing how you don’t have time in your life to create such wonderful things. If you feel that way, then say, “I wish I could make such wonderful things.” Don’t say, “You must have so much time to have created something pointless like this.”

2) You were trying to be funny.

People have told me this phrase while laughing. So I’m assuming people find it funny. I really would like to understand what is funny about it. If someone has insight into why it’s funny, please share why in the comments. Seriously. If you think it’s funny, I truly want to understand.

3) You didn’t know what to say about the artwork.

Maybe you may have been confused by the artwork and don’t know how to respond. But please don’t ever say, “you must have a lot of time on your hands.”

4) You meant it as an honest critique.

If you want to give a critique on someone’s work, then base it on the artwork itself, not on the artist’s time spent. We all want to see our time as something valuable. Please consider not making broad statements about how someone’s time is not valuable. If you would like to critique the artwork, perhaps you can point out some of the areas that are strong and some of the areas that could use improvement. Point the artist in the direction of other work simliar that he/she could reference. Artists do value feedback. You should feel free to give your opinions. In order to grow, we need to know how to improve.

I like to think I have a thick skin. One of the reasons why I’m creative is that I have the confidence to live my life creatively. I have a passion to show others how to live their life creatively. Negative statements usually don’t bother me. But this particular one does.

People have said this to me many times. They think it’s an innocent statement. But honestly, it’s a careless phrase that hurts.

Ok, so what should you say? Tomorrow I cover a list of 14 things to say to an artist when you are drawing a blank.

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