i made an amazing discovery this past week which still just astounds me. so simple, yet so profound, i felt like i just had to say something about it.
it involves actually talking to people.
shocking! i know!
but let’s think about this for a minute. i don’t know about you, but i spend all my time in my studio, working away. i’m kind of a shy, introverted person and i can amuse myself for hours. i love people, but honestly they intimidate me. so, over time, i’ve developed this habit of communicating via email. for four years, i worked as a stock broker and virtually lived on the phone, speaking to people non-stop. it nearly drove me over the edge being “on” all the time with complete strangers and only added to my reticence of the phone conversation.
one and a half years later and i’m a changed woman. my skin doesn’t crawl when the phone rings and i really enjoy chatting it up with my friends when we get a chance to connect. but this? this is something entirely new.
it all started during my busy week of pushing papers, writing proposals and filling out forms. i had a question. (two actually.) i also needed to speak with a reference of mine, someone i very much admire and who really freaks me out. normally, i would just jumped on that “new message” button and gone to it. but i didn’t want to wait, so i picked up my phone and made a call.
that person on the other end of the line… that person was nice. that person was there to help me, and she actually did in more ways than one. let me explain. when i initially called, i got her voicemail. so i left a detailed, but not overly so, message regarding my question. i left my name and contact phone number. professional, nothing shocking. but when she called me back, she first reiterated what i was calling regarding, but then stopped and said “before we go on, i just wanted to tell you i visited your website and i absolutely love your work!” i thanked her, we had a short chat and she then proceeded to give me the information i needed, a time frame i could expect before feedback and that was that.
but this was an amazing experience for a variety of reasons. first, this wasn’t just getting information. this was making contact with another human being in a personal way. we all know. we spend a great deal of time online. after a while you may get to “know” the nebulous person whom you’ve been chatting with, but it takes time. you’re missing the inflections and intonations you have with a real conversation. you’re missing all those nuances which tell you about whom you’re talking to. instead of being a series of characters in a rectangle on a monitor, you are a voice, a personality, an individual in a way two or three traded emails will never be. and she looked at my website. a senior administrator for a grant giving body “loves” my work. now if i’d been really smart, i would have said “if you’d like, i’d be happy to put you on my mailing list. i occassionally send out electronic postcards of work in process or has been completed. and if you don’t want to get them anymore, you can just unsubscribe.”
i’m still learning too.
i also spoke with my reference, and instead of being completely freaked, we had a nice little chat and i found i’d completely misunderstood instructions she’d given me but was too nervous to confirm. i also met a lovely woman at, of all things, a farm tour. we buy a lot of organic meat from her, but took advantage of a local farm tour to actually see their farm. she was great, recognized us, so she stopped to chat. during the conversation, i casually mentioned i was an artist. she was interested in that way most people are when you mention “i’m an artist”, and politely asked what i did. then she was intrigued, so i dug out my business cards which have photos of the work on them. then she was really interested and asked if i had done a residency or knew about the residencies at a local art center, to which i enthusiastically responded “yes! i’m applying for their program right now!” she asked if she could keep a couple of my cards (they’re all different) to give to her friend. although this conversation may lead nowhere, any possibilities would have been negated if it had never happened in the first place.
again, i totally spaced that whole “mailing list” thing, but i’ll get there. some day.
the point is, you are a complete person and whenever you reach outside your studio, you are interacting with other people. and they are just people too.
talk to them. you never know what may happen as a result.