Life Advice



Ask Amy: A reader offers a delightful ‘update’

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Readers: I appreciate it when people give me “updates” on previously published advice.

This update follows the Q&A, which was originally published in 2016.

Dear Amy: I’m hoping for a career in art, specifically as an illustrator.

Three years ago I graduated with an art degree and have been working to make that happen, doing a lot of research, building a portfolio and exploring my options.

I work part time to keep myself fed, but otherwise I’m always drawing, painting and networking.

From what I’ve learned, it takes years before most artists can quit their day jobs. I’m prepared for this; I’m in no way lazy, but I know it will take me a long time. I keep my head down and keep trying.

My family and friends are supportive, which is wonderful, but there is a big problem. They don’t understand why it is taking me so long. So they offer art advice, although they are not artists: Advice on what to paint, how much to sell it for, whom to work for and so on.

Sometimes the advice is ridiculous, if not insulting: “Just go work for Disney,” or “Nobody wants to buy those kinds of paintings. Paint portraits; those will sell.” Or, “Do it for the exposure if you have to.”

They don’t trust that I know what I’m doing, and they don’t recognize how hard I’m working. It gets to the point where I don't want to talk about my art at all. I want to enjoy my family get-togethers again.

How can I let on (politely) that I’m not interested in their bombardment of ill-informed advice?

– Struggling Artist

Dear Struggling: Everybody’s an expert, and the less people know about your particular field, the more “expert” their advice becomes.

What you are going through is akin to people telling a certain struggling writer (yours truly), “You should write a book and get Oprah to endorse it!”

This sort of statement might actually be a vote of confidence from the person offering it; unfortunately, instead it highlights the fact that none of these spectacular goals has been met. It’s a quick way to feel like a loser.

Don’t stop talking about your work (if you’re asked) – or avoid or ignore this unsolicited advice – but look for effective ways to cope with it.

“You should work for Disney,” could be met with – “That might be very cool. Do you know anyone there I can call?”

Remember always that this is really your fan club; they’re just disguised as a Greek chorus of know-it-alls.

Dear Amy: I wrote to you as a struggling artist who was bombarded with bad career advice from family and friends.

Well, I'm still a struggling artist and I'm still bombarded with ill-fitting advice, but I'm excited to say I've just received an offer on my picture book. I am going to be a published children's book author/illustrator!


The best thing I did was ask for advice from authors and illustrators. I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and got involved with the local chapter. I'm lucky I found a kick-butt agent and a wonderful writing group.

Meanwhile I let the bad advice from my family roll off my back. I know they mean well, and I'm sure they'll be thrilled to receive a copy of my picture book.

My grandma, who taught me how to paint as a child, has dementia now and can't give advice anymore, but she giggles in delight when I doodle for her.

She's still my biggest fan.

– Soon to be Published

Dear Soon to be Published: Your update is delightful. Your hard work has really paid off! I look forward to adding your book to my library.

Dear Amy: You recently answered a question from “Living a Lie,” who had been lying for 50 years, claiming to be a Vietnam veteran.

I am a female military veteran.

I, along with countless other women, served proudly ALONGSIDE our male counterparts.

I am disappointed with your comments to Living a Lie, “… many thousands of men who served during the Vietnam War, and who have oftentimes suffered because of their service.”

Too often our female soldiers are not acknowledged or recognized for their vital contributions in military service. A quick Google search may have provided you the opportunity to be more inclusive with your response.

– Proud Veteran

Dear Proud: I’ve heard from several women veterans, highlighting your point.

I should have been inclusive in my response, and apologize for my mistake.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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