Thursday, January 28, 2010

'So what do you do?'

Still in Paris, scoffing down pain au chocolat at the speed of light! It's a tough job...

Here's a post from about a year ago. I still hate this question!


I dread when people ask me what I do for a living. It's everyone's favourite cocktail party question, enabling the 'asker' to correctly place the 'askee' into the pigeon-hole of choice.

I used to answer with no problem. 'I'm a teacher,' I'd say, kicking off a whole debate about the dangers of teaching in UK secondary schools. It was a guaranteed conversation-starter. Now, though, it's a different scenario.

'I'm a writer,' I mumble, always feeling fraudulent. Hey, I've written three novels, I say to myself to prop up my self-esteem. But the next question always brings me back to reality.

'Oh!' The 'asker' perks up, looking at me with renewed interest. 'What have you published? Anything I might have read?'

'Nope and I've been rejected by about twenty agents and counting.' I always give it to them in one go, then take a sip of the (alcoholic) drink in my hand to allow them time to formulate their response.

It can go either one of two ways:

1. The sympathic/ patronising response. 'Oh, don't worry, it'll happen. Just keep trying. It's so great you're going for your dream!' All of this will be accompanied by a pitying look in the eye that reads: Poor, naive dreamer. You'll be sitting on your arse in ten years time still slogging away.

Maybe I will. But at least I'll be enjoying it!

2. The 'I write, too!' response. I never realised so many people want to write a novel of their own. It's like confessing my own writing ambitions has opened the floodgates. It's nice to hear that my postman wants to write a book. But I have to admit, I cringe at being put into the 'general public' basket of writers. Is that wrong? After all, I'm not published either. But I am serious about my writing, unlike those who consider composing a text message taxing but still want to write a book.

I don't know how long it will take before I can proudly say 'I'm a writer.' Hopefully sooner rather than later. Until then, I'll continue to dread the deadly 'What do you do?' question.

3 comments:

JentheAmazing said...

I think for me I'm still in the early stages of writing, but I understand exactly what you mean. I'm a grad student studying art history and people ask me all the time, "Oh what do you want to do with that?"

My response is normally, "Wellllllllllll....I want to be a writer."

I haven't progressed past the "I want to be" phase.

I don't feel ashamed or afraid about telling people that I want to be a writer. Instead I cringe when I hear their response. It's normally one of three things. One, a mumbled response that vaguely sounds like "Oh that's nice" and a quick change in topic with judging smirks.

Two, "Omg! When you're rich and famous like JK Rowling will you still be bffs with me?"
Uhm...you don't actually know anything about writers, do you?

Or three, "Oh I want to be a writer too!!!!"

Deniz Bevan said...

I do love telling people I'm a writer, but I also cringe when - invariably - they ask, so what have you published. I keep trotting out the old "100 agents is the average and I've only sent to, and been rejected by, 50 so far."
The hardest part is trying to explain to people why self-publishing is not an option...Hope you're having a great time in Paris! I should find out if my cousin has a concert coming up, you could go see him live :-) Remind me to send you his MySpace page!

Ann said...

I am delighted to hear my sentiments on this subject are felt by others. I too feel hesitant to say I am a writer. Because the next question is of course, have you had anything published? Well no I haven’t, which renders the so you’re only letting on you’re a writer attitude. It is the same dismissive attitude I received when I told people I was a stay at home Mom. People would say, oh so you don’t work. GRRRR.

Would love one of those pain au chocolat right now. Two even! Have a wonderful trip.