There’s a sentence every creative person hears eventually (or frequently) that’s a slap in the face every time:
“You have too much time on your hands.”
It’s in Urban Dictionary. There are snarky (and occasionally inspirational) Pinterest boards with “too much time on your hands” titles. Even Engadget, a site that arguably is for people with “too much time” to play with gadgets, is guilty of using it as a post title. (And it’s a Styx song, but that’s different.)
You may not think you’re being rude when you say this, but that’s because you’re not. You’re being incredibly, rudely, offensively mean. But you’re also revealing a lot.
When you say this phrase, what the creator hears is, “Wow, that was a really pointless thing you did.” And let’s be honest: That is exactly what you just said; it’s just not quite what you meant. What you were really saying was more like, “Wow, you spent a lot of time doing something you really enjoyed and created something you felt was worth sharing with me. I spent the same amount of time re-watching all of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix, pinning recipes I’ll never actually make, and playing through to level eleventy billion of Candy Crush. Now I would like to avoid reflecting too long on any of this.”
Let’s look at that. Especially this part: You spent a lot of time doing something you really enjoyed and created something you felt was worth sharing with me. It can take a lot for a creative person to share what they’ve made. It’s an act of trust. Creativity often comes with a pretty large ladle of self-doubt. And instead of supporting, encouraging, or even so much as politely smiling and nodding, you’ve declared the creation a waste.
If you’re a creative person yourself, let me offer some advice. The appropriate reply to the offender is, “No, actually I have the exact same 24 hours in a day that you do. I just choose to use them differently.” My experience is that this usually results in gobsmacked silence, which is exactly what should happen.
You can reserve the bonus snark for people who use the even more offensive version, “You should get a hobby.” (Wait, what? I just showed you the result of hours of learning a craft, but I don’t have a… I’m sorry, what?) To these people, you actually ask how they’ve been using their time. Rarely do they have a real answer. When they do have hobbies of their own, all you’re left with is the knowledge that this person, whether it was an anonymous commenter on a blog or your favorite aunt, is a little bit of a jerk. Then you have to choose whether it’s worth the time and/or potential loss of relationship to point out that you do have a hobby, and this is it, and that it’s incredibly rude to call someone’s hobby less valuable than your own.
And if you do? Worst case, you’re labeled “the weirdo,” but I gotta tell you—there are more of us. And we’re way more fun. Alas, what we don’t have is much time on our hands. We’ve got too many awesome projects.
To that, in closing, I offer you five fantastic things I found online with the phrase, “too much time on their hands”:
40 thoughts on “The Meanest Thing You Say to Your Creative Friend”
The link for the rainbow cake is http://blog.hwtm.com/2012/04/tutorial-rainbow-cake-with-homemade-all-natural-dyes/
You are correct. I’ll never say it again.
Out there, in the truth of life, there is a rule that states for every positive action (PA) there is a negative equal reaction(NER). The creators of these ideas, the PAs produced a positive charge in the universe when they posted their projects. The NERs react to the positive action with their negative comments. The NERs post the comments that opine the project is terrible, dumb,ugly, a waste of time, stupid, etc. The NERs get very frustrated when they are asked to not post these negative reactions. NERs do not understand why they shouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions or be permitted to call others names, or ridicule another person’s creativity. PAs don’t understand why NERs find it necessary to post negative comments. Well, it’s simple to understand if you just remember the law of equals: for every positive action, there is an equal but negative reaction. So, when you see negative comments just remind yourself that this is a NER in response to the Positive Action.
Well said Donna, it’s easy to get depressed, or discouraged when reading/hearing negative comments, but you are so right. For every negative comment, there is a positive one, either way one should never stop being creative.
Awesome post! And… I made that cake for my son’s 22nd birthday–MLPs on top 🙂
I spent about 5 hours carving Starry Night into a pumpkin this year… so it could rot. Don’t regret it for a minute! PPL coming to my house love our pumpkins. I also knit. I say I don’t have enough time to have to much time on my hands!
Omg how could I drink such coffee art?? Especially the doggie
For me, it goes beyond *wanting* to create and goes as far as having to. When I have a project rolling around in my head, I have a hard time focusing on other things. I’ve heard writers say something similar and nobody tells them to get a hobby.
As a writer, I can assure you I have heard every variation on “you’re wasting your time” and “get a hobby” you can imagine. Had a boyfriend’s grandmother laugh right in my face when I said I was a writer. I just published my first book in November. So now such comments inspire a vision of triumph inside my head, a veritable parade of middle fingers.
Creativity is a gift we give ourselves and the world. Some of us are called to dive in and can’t keep ourselves from spending our lives creating. Great post!
My mother was a workaholic. I grew up hearing the expression of everyone having too much time on their hands. It’s a purely subjective statement based on what the sayer finds important or time worthy. It’s like saying, “I am qualified to determine what is and isn’t a waste of time.” That, in and of itself, is the most self pedestalyzing act. It bespeaks of a narcissistic character disorder. Consider that the next time you hear it. The flip side of grandiosity is miserable inferiority; and THAT is from where the statement is spawned. Just remember that fact: the person who says it is self loathing. Pity them.
That’s an ignorant comment no matter what is being referred to. It can be something creative or just a hobby. I hear it all the time. I always ask people who say that to me how much time they spend mindlessly in front of the TV or going to concerts or…or…or… We all have the same amount of time; different people choose to use it in different ways.
Excellent article. I have heard that statement way too many times and it has bothered me a lot. When you said sharing your creation is an act of trust I could not have agreed more. It is an act of trust and generally you know who and who not to share with, but occasionally one or two slip through the cracks and it hurts more from them than others.
I wish I could take this whole thing and put it on a banner and wave it over me every time I do anything creative and share it. I have been lucky with supportive people in my life but man..those few creative scrooges can really mess with you. My mother is an artist, my husband is in awe of my creativity, my child loves when I use my creativity for his fun (like making a last minute storm trooper costume for halloween after we’ve moved from the US to Germany and had just received our stuff and I couldnt find his costume but we had lots of cardboard).
So yes! YES!
The reaction I usually get to something I made is, “Why?” As in they imply, why would I make that? Why do I think it was worth the time? Why are you so weird? And I tell them that it makes me feel amazing to create something, to turn base ingredients into something new. Then they usually concede the point.
As a knitter, I frequently hear it phrased a little differently, but with the same condescension. ‘I wish I had time to knit.’
Half the time, this is said in a waiting room or similar situation. Hmm… we are both sitting here, but only one of us is utilising our time well….
Thank you for letting me know that I am not along in being annoyed by comments of this ilk. The last one I got was on Christmas day from my brother-in-law in response to the pirate costumes I made for his daughters. It still gets me down on occaision, although I doubt he would get the cruelty of his comment. Thankfully the girls adored their costumes and spent most of Christmas night wearing them or bits of them, so there is still some hope for appreciation out there.
Very well said. We all have time for the things we’re passionate about, don’t we? I bet you’ve also heard, “I don’t have the patience to do that!” We also all have the patience for the things we want to do.
You nailed it! Especially that bit about how creativity comes with a giant helping of self doubt. Every time I start to make something and i’m not 100% sure of the result, I wonder if I’m wasting my time/doing it right/talented enough/etc. People who don’t create can’t relate to that exact sensation
Nope. The meanest thing you can say is “you did a crap job on the binding on the king-sized quilt I left in my motor home that burned to the grown last July 4th.”
There was no indigo on the rainbow cake….
indigo is probably not food safe….berries would need to be used and may still go red.
Of course, you could stop pointing out flaws and go figure out how to get the indigo layer on that cake.
That’s easy. Figure out how to get the correct shade of indigo, and then use a let’s see….
A spatula to slice the cake horizontally, then lift, and add the indigo layer.
Lower the rest of the cake on top of the indigo layer, and then refrost. Apparently, not a word.
It just pains me to see what people think is the rainbow, when in fact it isn’t. That’s all I was attempting to say.
“I spent the same amount of time re-watching all of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix, pinning recipes I’ll never actually make, and playing through to level eleventy billion of Candy Crush. Now I would like to avoid reflecting too long on any of this.”
So you’re not against condemning people for how they spend their time, you just want to make sure your activities are considered to be on the “right side of the fence”.
If we needed another case of Internet hypocrisy, you’ve landed in the textbook.
P.S. Dawson’s Creek was awesome. Someone spent a lot of time “creating” that as their art, and you shouldn’t speak condescendingly to the people that are enjoying it.
The point is the oneupsmanship.
In my book, if someone is complaining too much about my life, it’s because theirs is not worth looking at…..
After that, it is my firm belief that one inappropriate comment deserves another. As a redhead, I get a lot of inappropriate comments, the author usually greatly regrets it. Not because I am mean, but because they threw down the gauntlet, and now I get to toy with them with my well-planned and thought out scenarios, designed to make them feel like idiots and realize they are a$$holes as well.
So you are saying that the author of this article doesn’t want to look at their own life so they are complaining about the lives and comments of others? Interesting perspective.
I love it!!
Although, most of the time I get the question, “How do you fit it all in!” and then they admit they play Candy Crush. 😉
Love this article Ruth! However, I would like to know what your feelings or responses would be to someone who makes the offensive comment from a position of seeing all creative “hobbies” as frivolous endeavors. The people I come across who make these statements usually make no such room in their lives for anything they don’t consider “work”. I have many times heard the “too much time” comment followed up by a second judgement that the creative individual should “get a 2nd job”, “have another child”, or “volunteer all that time to a soup kitchen”.. instead of “wasting” time on a creative endeavor. What thoughts or advice would you have for that type of situation.. where the offending person isn’t passing judgement on your choice of creative expression, but on the frivolity of doing anything non “work” related?
Thanks again for your article!
What to say? Tell them to go get a life and send you a postcard. Make sure they don’t have your address.
Or the more polite, “to each their own and how I choose to spend my time is up to me”. But at the end of the day, they will have a high score on stupid VGOTM. You will have Things You Made, that your children will appreciate as they get older. You will have taught your children that to Make Things Is Divine.
Finally, those that matter won’t mind and those that mind don’t matter.
People who say that are usually mean, awful bitter people. They’re not smart enough nor creative enough to do anything but be workaholics in unfulfilling jobs. So they take that rage out on us.
As an author, I get this all the time! Thank you for the comeback line. Oh, how I’m gonna use that one–and thank you for this blog post.
Sometimes, when someone says to me “You need to get a hobby”, I respond “No, I really need to get a business loan”
People get offended by the strangest things, lol.
I have to say that it would never occur to me that someone was being mean when they said that. When I hear it my usual response is a genuine laugh and an, “I know, right?” I find that most things can be taken in two ways: you can assume people are being unkind or you can assume they’re not. I try to fall on the “not” side of the equation.
Another common theme that annoys me is pretty much any innocent critique that starts with “you should…” . I’m already making what I want to make… so *you should* make whatever, yourself. It’s never intended to be with any malice, but I find such comments annoying.
Oh , somebody understands perfectly how I feel . Try this one on for size , my own father’ “That’s nice, how much money can you make doing that?” As if my creativity exercises wasn’t about expressing myself, but how fast I can make a buck. Hey folks? guess what ? Life aint about money every time somebody takes up a hobby or grabs a pencil and pad or paintbrushes , or wants to create music. Sometimes it’s just our way to fell like we matter in life.
I love this post! The people commenting that don’t get this article don’t get it because they’ve never had it happen to them. They’ve never loved a hobby/craft so much that it defines and completes them. I do and I’ve had a variety of derogatory comments said to me that made me have to defend my choices. So I appreciate this article and if I didn’t, I’d keep it to myself, because I’m too busy making something to be perpetuate a cycle of negativity on the interwebs. 🙂
It’s funny, I’ve been told this and other things like it quite often and I don’t find it offensive at all! Art is my *life* (I live through it; can’t live any other way) and I totally understand that other people don’t feel the same way and that other people will not always understand what I do. I think comments like “you have too much time on your hands” are kinda a funny compliment in a way! Like “Yes this took a reaaalllyyyy really long time to do; thank you for noticing! And, yes, I know a lot of people don’t understand why I did it but that’s ok cause I didn’t make it for the people who don’t understand.”
Maybe I’m weird; I don’t know. *I* would never ever tell someone they “have too much time on their hands” doing something they enjoy but I’m not bothered when people tell it to me. People are all different and, personally, if someone isn’t *meaning* to purposefully offend me, it doesn’t upset me. And if they are? Alright, that’s their opinion. But I think it’s important to note that people who say those things probably don’t mean to be so hurtful and I think it’s important to acknowledge that and factor it into our responses as artists who people might not understand 🙂
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