A couple years ago, I had a Day Job where sometimes I had to go to parties with my coworkers and other people involved with where I worked. These parties were usually pretty awkward because I was the youngest one there and didn’t have much in common with the people around me.
At one of them, though, I met a guy a few years older than me who was pretty interesting, and I told him that I’d lived in Japan and was working on a novel about the lives of foreigners there. He asked me some questions, so I could tell he was genuinely interested, and I got my hopes up that I’d met someone new and cool.
Then we got to one of those lulls in the conversation that always seems to happen with new people at parties, and to break it, he asked me what I was doing with the rest of the weekend (this was on a Saturday). I answered something like this:
“Well, I had to fix a brake problem with my car today, so I set tomorrow aside to work on the novel.”
Nothing I’d said felt like a big deal, but it clearly was to the guy, who did one of those cartoon double-takes where he looked away and back at me again.
“So you’re really serious about this novel, then?”
At the time, I was surprised that he was so surprised, and I didn’t get why he’d reacted that way until years later.
Up until that point, the guy had pegged me as someone who wasn’t serious about his creative work, since I was young and didn’t have much in the way of accomplishments to prove myself. He also only knew me through my Day Job, which didn’t involve novel-writing in any way, shape, or form. Not only that, but he hadn’t seen the novel, my other writing, or anything I’d done outside of my Day Job, so he didn’t have any reason to think that I was different than other people he’d known whose creative work was just a hobby.
When I told him I was actually going to spend my Sunday writing, though, that all changed, and he started to take me more seriously. (Not as seriously as he’d have taken J.K. Rowling, but more seriously than he had a minute before.) I’ve seen people make this switch a lot since then, but never as blatantly as that.
Getting other people to take your non-Day Job work seriously is pretty important, so this week I’ve been thinking of ways to help with that…
1. Let Your Work Speak For Itself
Meeting new people is hard enough without having to get them to take you seriously, but if you can show the other person something you’ve done that screams I take my shit seriously as a creative person! then it’s going to help your case quite a bit.
If your work is visual, try storing some pictures on your phone for quick access (no scrolling through months of old travel pics to find them, though!). If pictures aren’t your thing, try putting something else you’ve done online so you can easily text someone the address (like I do with this blog!). If it’s something that takes more time to look at, offer to email it to them later, then take that all-important step and actually do it!
In any case, the point is to find a way to show the person your work so they’ll know it amounts to something real and tangible.
2. Be Definite
When you talk about things you want to do, things you hope to do, or things you’re trying to do, other people don’t take you seriously. That’s because serious people talk about things they’ve done, things they’re doing right now, and things they’re going to do tomorrow from five-thirty until seven-thirty and you can come to [insert specific location] if you’d like to do this thing too. And people take them seriously because of it.
This can be really hard if you don’t have a lot of have done’s or going to do tomorrow from five-thirty until seven-thirty’s yet, but if you try hard, you can definitely think of a few, even if they’re small. Write them down if you have to so you’ll have them in a tangible form to look at later—you might be even be surprised at how long your list is.
Even something as simple as saying I was actually going to spend a Sunday writing helped me, so try a few different approaches to see what works!
3. Speak with Confidence
What do James Bond, Stephen King, and that really cool kid you went to high school with who always planned fun things that you weren’t invited to have in common? They all act with more confidence than you do, and people take them seriously because of it.
These people don’t stutter, act embarrassed about their work, or make excuses for why they’re not doing better. They also don’t slump their shoulders, turn away awkwardly at pauses in the conversation, or do that really lame thing where they pretend not to see you in public places (News Flash: You’re not fooling anyone).
They don’t do these things because they’re too busy speaking coolly and confidently about what they do, just as casually as they talk about buying corned beef from the deli. This takes a lot of practice, and can seem intimidating when you’re just starting out, but if you act like you’ve already made it, people will listen to you like you’ve already made it, and that’s when they start to take you seriously.
Does any of this hit home? What tricks do you have for talking about your projects? Let me know your experiences, or leave me your own tips in the Comments!