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.