The BIGGEST MERCH SALE I HAVE EVER DONE is happening RIGHT NOW in the HE STORE and ends on 9/21/13!!! $10 Books! $9 Shirts! Other things! Different Prices!
I used to have lunch with Josh IRL and his work friends a lot. This was back when the comic was still just a hobby. Josh had a core group of lunch-goers, but he would always show up with 2-3 new people. They, being average, sane human beings would ask me, the one person at the table of 8-10 whom they did not work with, what I did for a living. Back then this question always made me feel like they were saying, “We all make video games. How exactly are you NOT living up to your potential?” Or even more simply, I would hear, “Hi! Nice to meet you! Tell me why you hate yourself!” I would usually say something like “I manage a small design team,” which was true. I would leave out the second half of that sentence which was, “…that makes websites for dentists.” Gross.
Once cartooning became my full time job it took me a long time to get used to saying “I’m a cartoonist.” It was certainly a truthful enough answer to, “What do you do?” but (as with any aspirational, dare-to-dream career) I always felt kind of like I was lying. Like I should have said, “I’m a cartoonist but I’m not very well known and I’m broke.” Eventually I realized the question was not, “How successful are you?” It was, “What do you do?” And What I did was draw comics. Eventually the work became the reward. The measure of success was that I’d spent one more day or one more month cartooning instead of going back to a day job I hated.
Even though I now have the greatest job in the world, I still get squeamish with strangers ask me what I do. This is only with “normal people” type strangers. I’m always more comfortable with other artists, musicians or entertainers since they probably know what it’s like to live part of your life privately and an increasingly larger part of your life in some form of the public eye. I abhor small talk, and I try to cut it off at every possible pass. I try to give short, curt answers that won’t lead to follow up questions. This is, of course, unhealthy, antisocial behavior. At least I can admit that. I get even more weirded out when people in my regular life (people I know from pre-comic days, family, neighbors or anyone else I know NOT through the Internet) bring up specific comics I’ve drawn or talk about things I’ve said online. I guess to me it feel like Bruce Wayne showing up to a shareholder’s meeting and some guy at the end of the table saying, “Nice job capturing TwoFace last night, Bruce.” People aren’t supposed to see my nighttime activities. Of course I do post them in the most public forum on earth with my actual name attached to each and every one. This is also a brain problem that I have. Again, at least I recognize that it’s a problem.
COMMENTERS: Hate small talk? Hate small talk with a certain person in particular? To what lengths will you go to avoid long conversations with strangers, office mates, family, etc? When I’m on an airplane I pop my earbuds in immediately, even if I’m not listening to music. It creates a forcefield of “I probably can’t hear you, so don’t talk to me,” that I quite appreciate because, again, brain problems.
If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr you probably already know that I have recently joined with Hiveworks for my hosting and advertising needs. Check out their roster of comics, their affiliates and anything else they have to offer.
A friendly reminder about ads: If you like HijiNKS ENSUE and you want to see it continue, please do not use an ad blocker on my site. Use it for every other website (accept for those run by independent artist types) if you must, but please whitelist this site and allow me to continue making a living from the free content I give away. Thanks!
Why not, instead of saying you are a cartoonist, you just say something like “I created Hijinks Ensue”? That sounds cool, and leaves no ambiguity about whether you are just some guy that works on a small part of some comic or cartoon. You made something and can now make a living off it. Then the conversation naturally leads to you talking about HE, with an opportunity to pick up more fans, or at least talk about something you are passionate about. You could carry business cards or something with some QR codes linking to some of your best comics.
You’re a successful small business owner. Living the American Dream!
It’s all about positioning, I think.All of these things are right and true, but it doesn’t change how I don’t like to talk to the lady that cuts my hair.Fair enough. I was more addressing the ” co-workers of my game developer friend”, which would presumably be much more likely to actually be interested in your work and get your jokes.
My title (Application Development Specialist) is basically meaningless. I don’t even let people respond before I launch into a brief speech about what I actually do (help 3rd party devs write apps for the BlackBerry). From there, that part of conversation usually ends, or leads to me fixing or improving their experience with their phone.
T.J. · 92 weeks agoI don’t understand why my barber always insists on talking to me. It’s such an uncomfortable position to be in, with someone you know passingly (at best) wielding an array sharp objects very close to my faceparts, all the while wanting to know my life’s story. I get that it’s probably a bit strange for them as well, and they could probably use a conversation partner. But sitting in that chair kind of puts you in a defenseless position, so coming up with answers to small talk gets even tougher, and all I really wanted was to get a haircut.I founded www.hardradio.com (go ahead and look it up, I’ll wait) and really enjoy going out to the local music scene… but alas sometimes I just want to be left alone to enjoy the scene and the band, not talk about whatever crap project you’re recording in your mom’s basement. I generally just sit quietly in the back of the room avoiding everyone, enjoying the band.The first time I took IRL Josh to a business meeting with me it was at a resort in the Bahama, so that a lot of the other attendees brought their kids along. I did think one of the guests was going to slaughter a goat at Josh’s feet because he was so excited to talk to Josh about his job. Thankfully Josh is socially adept enough to know when the Golden laser penis is acceptable and when it’s not 🙂
Natalie · 92 weeks agoPretty sure the whole reason that silent ringtones were invented was so people can pretend they just got a super important text that requires their immediate attention, or so they can just avoid conversation totally. Sometimes I look around a train or a waiting room and wonder what percent of people on their phones actually have friends who are messaging them and which ones are just looking at porn or typing out the words to American Pie.Did I miss something about the mouseover text button disappearing?
Will · 92 weeks agoI was just thinking the same thing. I generally read this from my ipad and it was great to still be able to see the alt-text via the old button. I was just catching up on the comic when I realized something was missing.I don’t normally avoid small talk, actually. One of my favorite things about retail is the constant stream of new customers and small talk and being able to recycle my jokes endlessly, to the consternation of my co-workers. However, there are times I do not want the small talk, usually when I’m taking public transit or walking down the street. Since I am a lady-type, I don’t really have any defense against that. A lot of dudes see ear buds as like an INVITATION to just TRY HARDER.I hate small talk, even having a so-called normal job. I don’t get much information about you, as a person, knowing where you work. I like when people ask me more telling questions, like “so, what book are you reading right now?” or “have you discovered any new music you like?” It’s still small talk, but at least it’s more about me than “I am an administrative assistant.”
Amy · 92 weeks agoI actually get more uncomfortable with questions like that. Mostly because I tend to read cheap “genre” fantasy and science fiction. It can be hard to explain what some of my favorite books are about without it sounding ridiculous. There have even been a couple of times when I’ve decided NOT to bring a particular book to work or school because I don’t want to have to talk about it.
But I guess basically I don’t want people getting too close to me, so I’d rather answer the superficial “what do you do” type of questions. I feel like people are more likely to judge me for liking Piers Anthony than for being a math tutor.Piers Anthony, ?
Amy, I SO used to respect you….
Now let me get back to my auto-didactucation in the tropes of The TV.
AmyLynn · 92 weeks agoI know enough about weather and sports to be able survive lines at the bank and such. My difficulty is at work, where I have nothing to contribute to conversations about clothes, nail polish and whatever was on TLC last night. I am working on my “I’m too busy – go away” body language, but I am concerned I will be the coworker that everyone hates. It is not that I don’t like anything, I just don’t like anything they like. I also open a book as soon as I sit in my airplane seat, but only because that small talk usually involves long conversations that tend to pry into my privacy, like “where are you going?”I work in a very small office enclave inside our client’s corp HQ, so I have to deal with 2 different work “cultures”, most of which involve pick-em up trucks as big as the Titanic that the ladies in hooker pumps can’t park, burnt/grilled/sauced meat-flavored products that have no actual flavor, and CONSTANT talk about the footsball.
As a nerd gaymer moderately fashionable non-hetero male, you might be able to image me with YouTube running constantly while I have any podcast nerdery available to listen to in my ear buds. And long lunches where I hide from the rednex, yahoos, hilljacks, and the like.One great way to end a conversation is to invade a person’s personal space. That is the airspace two feet around their body. You don’t have to touch them, just continue with the conversation but get less than two feet from them. Subconsciously they will feel awkward and remove themselves.
This has been tested and proven over a 4 year study working at Six Flags. 😉Gosh I wish that worked. I seem to get stuck meeting people who have no concept of personal space… the ones who shake your hand and try to hold it for the amount of time it takes to learn all about what you do for a living, where you’re from, and what about before that.Yeah, I suspect that works better for men than women, and best for men who are larger/taller than average. On the other end of that, most people do not find petite women particularly intimidating, and I have no doubt that there are plenty of male strangers out there who would love it if I invaded their personal space.
Jeff West · 92 weeks agoI am Deaf, but I was raised in both oral and sign language methods of communication, so I have the best of both worlds. I can talk to hearing people using only my voice just as easily as I talk to Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing people using only signs. However, my favorite thing to do, when avoiding people, is to just start signing and act like I have no ability to speak. Nothing scares hearing people away faster than seeing a Deaf person and not knowing how to respond. It’s effective against chatty strangers, pesky sales/survey people at the mall, and anyone who goes door-to-door preaching their religion.
Cori K · 92 weeks agoYeah, awkward I understand. I study religion in the US. People have said so many stupid and even hurtful things about it that I am also sometimes hesitant to tell people what I do. Hell, I’ve even had friends pull the “you’re wasting your talent” line on me. It’s easy to get defensive, especially when you’ve been put on the defensive so many times in the past.
And if I tell them I work on religion and pop culture (with special attention to TV and webcomics), well, then it gets interesting. I’m just throwing my life away, after all.
(How do I get people to stop? I’ll let you know when I figure it out myself.)I fall on the other end of the career spectrum but I have the same problem. I have a PhD in a hard science and I HATE telling people. I will usually perform conversational back flips to avoid telling people about my job. Once it’s out there it’s the only thing bother to learn about me. People assume I must be super smart and make tons of money. And I have to reply “No actually I spend most of my day watching liquid drip from a tube and make less than a manager at McDonalds.”I actually don’t mind making small talk with strangers or people I don’t know very well most of the time, although I can relate to not liking it when strangers ask me what I’m reading, since most of it is science fiction or fantasy, and I hate that blank or glazed-eye look I get from non-geek types when I say who/what I’m reading.
If I’m not in the mood to talk to anyone, I try to avoid making eye contact. That usually works pretty well if there’s no one present I actually need to talk to for some reason.
What I really hate is when I’m in a store and just want to browse, and someone is trying to “help” me. Then, of course, whenever I do need help while shopping, there is nary a salesperson in sight.I’m riddled with anxieties about social situations. (All part of a larger mental-health clusterfuck I deal with.) These days I try to engage as much as possible, but I still have a range of tricks I use to escape those stressful situations.
In my youth I would imitate a profound speech impediment (a splisp – half stutter, half lisp) or fake a foreign accent to avoid talking to others.
These days, I have an app on my phone that lets me fake a call by having the phone ring and displays one of my contacts as the caller.
If that can’t buy me an exit, then I go for an Oscar and fake an emotional response: I go glassy eyed & stare off into space for a bit, sigh deeply and mournfully, and then ask them if they wouldn’t mind if I stepped out for a bit. Most people are too considerate to say no. (In the event that tears are needed, I like to remind myself that everyone I love will eventually die.)
Leshka · 92 weeks agoPutting on headphones works for you? You lucky bastard! I’ll have headphones, mouth the words to the song I’m listening to AND be reading a book, and I still get people who pass others on the subway just to ask me for directions.
I keep looking for that tattoo on my forehead that says “Information – please disturb”.
Tom · 92 weeks agoEverything I know about small talk I learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation ‘Starship Mine’.
StephC · 92 weeks agoTry this one… you’ve taken off from working a “real job” to try and write a book and aren’t published. That’s always really awkward because people either assume you’re just sitting on your ass all day or they ask what you’re writing about. I can handle other small talk with strangers except the subject of career.
Christina · 92 weeks agoAs someone who makes video games for a living, I can tell you that most “normal” people react the exact same way. When my hairstylist, dental hygienist, or random friend of a friend asks me what I do, it’s the same embarrassing experience where they give me a look like “Is that a real job?” because in their minds, someone working on video games is basically an overgrown child. :/