9 Questions Parents Of Artists Should Avoid Asking


We know you’re just worried about us. Or you’re just trying to make conversation. But please avoid the following for the sake of our sanity. We love you. But let’s not.

1. “What happened with that big audition/meeting/show that you had?”

If I didn’t tell you that the outcome was stellar and world-rocking, please assume that either A) I have no idea how it “went” and I may not ever know, or B) it was not awesome. Open and shut case. I have already rehashed it a million times with my own self over cheap wine and tiny pastry puff hot dogs and I don’t want to do it anymore. If I didn’t start the conversation, I’m probably not up for talking about it.

2. “I mean… are you getting an indication that you’re good at this? Are people responding?”

This is a deeply loaded question, guys. What you’re asking is “Are you actually good enough? Are people telling you that you’ve got a shot, or are you getting booed?” If I were getting booed on a consistent basis, I probably wouldn’t love what I do. Love for your art, like love for other people, needs to be fed and watered. If you’re getting exactly zero love in return for what you’re putting out there, then you will probably stop doing it. That would be terribly masochistic otherwise (which is another barrel of monkeys altogether that we’ll save for another day).

3. “Any thoughts on when you might buy a house/get married/have some kids?”

All of these wonderful life milestones are also very costly life milestones. There’s a reason people in the arts typically wait a little bit longer to start families or buy houses. Where is this magical money coming from, this money with which I will make a down payment on a home or feed 100+ wedding guests? Certainly not from my blogging, I would venture to guess. It’s not that I don’t want these things. But we artsy-fartsy types tend to wait. If we have a very specific vision for our wedding day and want to pay for it ourselves and/or feel strongly about raising kids who will wont for nothing, then we’re going to be patient. We’d love it if you hopped on the patient train alongside us.

4. “Why’d you write something so dark? Did your character have to swear so much?”

Next time I’ll do something for the Disney Channel if they’ll have me. We could also all try to be adults.

5. “Do you need money?”

Wait, hang on. Is that even a question? Of course we need money. Pretty much always. But are you like… offering money? Or are you trying to get me to ask you for it/admit that I need it? Most of us are very, very proud and won’t ask for cash, especially if we are more or less making it work on our own. If you want to be generous, we think that’s amazing and we are deeply, eternally grateful. But if you’re trying to gauge how poor we are and how worried you need to be as it relates to said poverty, that’s not doing much for our self esteem (which already takes enough hits, let’s be real). I am too proud to beg, at least at the moment. If it gets particularly unbearable (like, can’t-pay-for-heat-in-NYC-in-February unbearable), then perhaps I will ask to be floated financially for a hot second. But much like point #1, most of us will only speak of it if it’s worth speaking about.

6. “Why didn’t you sing that other song? Why don’t you show them your senior film? That was SO good!”

Okay, parents. Unless you guys have careers in the creative biz yourselves, this one can get sticky. We have sat through countless drinks and coffee dates with agents and/or their assistants, dropped crazy amounts of money for seminars with casting directors, and waited months to have our writing evaluated by professionals so that they can tell us to “do this instead of that.” We know you’re just trying to help us be resourceful and find a new angle, but please don’t doubt that we’re already out there doing exactly that. So unless you are a novelist or the owner of a record company, you might not always know the best path to take. But it’s okay. To be fair, sometimes those people don’t even know. There aren’t any rules to follow, only ever-evolving trends that anyone can be wrong about. Which brings me to my next point…

7. “Well, how long does this kind of thing usually take?”

I don’t know, Mom. I might get a call tomorrow with an offer for a six-figure book deal that will prompt me to move to Barcelona and write sequels forever. Or I might dedicate the next five years to the Sisyphean task of submitting my manuscript to every agent under the sun before someone takes a chance on me. My band may very well still be touring out of a beat-up 15-pass van one year from today. Or maybe some CW show will use our song as their theme and we’ll be playing for hoards of screaming teenagers. Simply put, I have no earthly way of knowing what the timeline is on “this kind of thing”. Sometimes that’s exciting. But most of the time, it sucks.

8. “How’s work?”

For a lot of us (not all, but a large percentage!), “work” consists of that ol’ standard: the day job. And if you ask us how that’s going, you’re probably going to get a rather boring answer in return because, well, it can get boring. We put on our happy faces and go to our assistant jobs, bartending jobs, waitressing jobs, and babysitting jobs, but when you ask us how it’s going, we typically don’t have an interesting answer for you. All that’s happened is we’ve been a) reminded of how boring our day-to-day can be and b) reminded that we still have to have these jobs in the first place. It bums us out, and we’ll bet it bums you out, too. You probably never dreamed that your brightest child would do nothing but answer phones for 10 hours straight or would spend their evenings slinging Jell-O shots for college kids. So let’s pick another category.

9. “So, are they paying you for that?”

Remember when you taught us that it was rude to ask someone how much money they make? This question is rude in the same way. But for some reason, probably because the arts are notorious for convincing people to work for free, this has become an acceptable query. Yes, sometimes I get paid. But sometimes I choose to do a project for different reasons. Maybe it looks great on my résumé, or it offers a lot of exposure. Perhaps I have an opportunity to work alongside someone I really admire, or maybe I owe someone a favor because they once helped me with a project. Long story short, sometimes we board projects for reasons other than money. Of course, every artist reaches a point at which they ask themselves what their time is worth in dollars and cents. It’s true that I’m choosier now than I have been in the past. But that’s my personal call to make. Just because my paycheck is determined on a case-by-case basis, it doesn’t make it okay for “How much are they paying you?” to be one of the first questions you ask about an exciting new project I’ve just informed you of.

You know what we’d love, though? A conversation about books we’ve read recently, movies we’ve seen, sporting events we couldn’t get over, or places we might travel to as a family. We might not want to talk to you every single day, but we definitely want to talk to you, parents! It’s just that… when we do talk… respect our career choices as you raised us to respect yours. We’ll all be happier for it, even though we already know you “just want us to be happy”. TC mark


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