Monday, April 19, 2021

You're So Great at This, You Should Also Do That

I recognize that at its heart, the titular statement is well meant and a compliment.  But I also think we should work on examining why we think the greatest compliment for someone's work, is to suggest more work to them.  I am not talking about things like, I loved your book, please write another.  That is suggesting a person should keep doing a thing they are already doing.  I am talking about things like, I love the way you Tweet, you should start a You Tube channel.  Or, I love the work you did for this, I think you should also go solve world hunger maybe.  Okay perhaps that one is a slight exaggeration.  
I do understand that this is people saying you are very good at doing things, I wish for you more things.  But there's also an insidious thing.  You've been providing free content to me, or labor I didn't pay for, I think you should go do more labor and fix more things.  Because there are a couple of possibilities baked into that.  The suggestor somehow thinks that it would be even better if this person did another great thing that they could then point people too and say, I told them they should do X thing.  The suggestor wants to learn more without having to learn or vet new people.   The suggestor wants to end this interaction knowing that there are great people doing great things, and the world is in good hands.  
Now, yes, I have delved a lot into what could be a benign attempt to say, I love your work.  But I think the difference between I love your work, and I love your work, and therefore wish you were doing more work is tied to some dangerous cultural assumptions.  Telling someone you wish they had more things to do, implies their value is in the quantity of their creation.  
I see this a lot with small creators who do things like limited pre-orders or shop restocks.  Invariably someone will say, I love your stuff but it's always sold out.  And yes, in an ideal world I think most creators want everyone who wants to pay them money for a thing to be able to get that thing.  But I also imagine they want to sleep.  Eat food.  Attend to their loved ones. In some cases work the day job that lets them do this thing on the side and also provides them health insurance.  All things that while they do not look like work, support the work.  
So, if what you really want to say is I love your work, say that.  And if that person idly says, sometimes I think about doing X thing, you can absolutely be ready to tell them you support that.  But suggesting more work for people isn't always the compliment you think it is.