I’ve heard this time and time again, and have even said it a few times — when a curious person expresses interest in whatever industry or profession someone else is in, you’ll hear “Don’t do it.” I’ve said this often during my software development career and occasionally say it over drinks if someone asks me about getting into game editing. For my last post in 2012, I’m going to address this idea.
You’ll get this when you’re talking with someone who is doing something you think is cool, but the person you’re talking with is in the middle of financial woes (because said profession doesn’t pay well), medical woes (because rare is the gig that comes with health insurance) or dealing with other bullshit & community drama. But it doesn’t help us to project our own bullshit onto someone else who asks for that conversation.
Sometimes you get this from a person who is trying to maintain a freelance fiefdom, with the fear that more people entering as writers or editors will take work away from you. While that technically may be true, our professional community is one where reputation and word of mouth mean nearly everything, so a new person entering isn’t a threat to you. So cut that out.
And sometimes we say this out of jealousy. Even if we’re not in a moment of crisis, someone who has a good, steady paycheck is this weird creature — doubly so if that comes with benefits. Hell, I miss my government gig some days. But again, let’s not project our own bullshit on others.
Instead, let’s find ways of not being dismissive. Granted, there are ways you can say “Don’t do it” that comes off as a joke and starts a different conversation, but overall let’s not shit on that person who is genuinely interested in this thing we do. That person is why we do it, right? (Or, at least, that person is part of the cog that gets us paid.)
Being dismissive doesn’t switch some light on in someone’s mind to say “Oh, he said I shouldn’t do it. Thought and ambition over.” It just makes us who say it look like assholes. Here’s another tactic: “Why do you want to? What do you think it’s like? What do you want to get out of it?” Rather than paint a picture of what these jobs and lives are like, have them paint the picture and show them where they’re off.
Or, if you’re being dismissive because you don’t have the energy to deal with it, find a different way to disengage than to crap on another human. “Hey, that’s cool.” or even (and this isn’t a great suggestion, but we are all human and not always at 100%) half-listen to them while sipping a drink. That’s still better than saying what’s effectively “This thing you think is awesome isn’t. Now keep buying my stuff.”
In general, if we’re going to keep doing this sort of creative work, let’s stop telling others it’s a horrible idea to do so. After all, if it really is, we should be out there finding whatever the hell is “better” work.