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Don't talk about it

I teach artists how to talk about their work. In fact, that’s what I’ll be teaching next Saturday for RACC. (The Artist Talk: How to talk to anyone, anywhere about your art.) But as much as I believe in the incredible value of articulating what you’re up to with your art, I know that sometimes, with a project in its nascent stage, it’s best to shut up.

Talking about a work that’s germinating (a stage which can last weeks, months or years) is often the best way to dispel its energy. You find that you’ve talked about it so much that you don’t need to release it on the canvas or on the page anymore.

Keeping it under wraps, known only to you and perhaps no one else, reserves its essential energy, energy which it needs as it grows into itself. This energy may even feel like a tension that you want to release by conversing about it. Don’t. Keep quiet and release it back into the project.

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to take a walk in the Pearl District with author David Shields before his reading at Powell’s.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

“A novel,” I said.

“What’s it about?”


“I can’t tell you right now,” I said, a part of me wishing I could say something that would dazzle him. But I knew better.

“Wow. That must mean it’s going really well.”

“Yeah,” I said, smiled and didn’t say another word about it.

So, next time somebody asks: “What are you working on these days?” Bite your tongue. Especially about that germinating project. Talk about another project. Or tell them you’re working on something secret – they will be salivating to know more. That may be the fastest way to build an eager audience.