Saturday, September 3, 2016

How To Tell People You're a Writer

Recently I ran into an acquaintance in line at Starbucks.  Polite conversation was made and, not knowing I'm a writer, he asked where my office was.  Confused for a moment, I finally gestured around me.  "Right here!"

He followed my gaze to the chairs, half-filled with a mixture of business execs, retirees with papers, college students, and Lulu Lemon-wearing moms pushing strollers.  If I'd been confused, his expression was otherworldly.  He cocked his head.  "Oh, I thought you..."

And then, for the millionth time, I got to explain to someone that I'm taking a break from my solid, sensible career to see if I can make a go of ... well, writing.  Of all things.

I'm still not sure how to tell people I'm a writer.

Because you never know how a person will respond, you know?  We've all gotten at least one of these:

(a) How exciting!  What do you have published?  Would I have heard of any of it?
(b) Oh, that's great!  So nice to get to spend time with your kids while they're young.
(c) Huhn.  What does your husband do? 
(d) *blank look* *changes subject*

To which I internally respond:

(a) Well, I've written a book.  But it's not published yet.  Um, I'm working on other stuff, too, though.  *shuffles feet*
(b) Um ... pretty sure Nick Jr. babysat my kids half the summer so I could revise my book for the umpteenth time.   
(c) Okay, thankfully, I haven't actually gotten this response, but I've gotten reactions that make me wonder if the person wants to ask this.  Or I'll just get looks that accuse me of being a hopelessly impractical dreamer, which, let's face it, I am.
(d)  I get it.  Plenty of people have very little idea of what a writer actually does.  Some find it interesting, and some don't.  That's okay. I don't find underwater basket weaving very interesting.  Everybody has their thing.

So here's my challenge:  The next time someone asks you what you do, respond as one of your characters.  Here are some examples:

I'm looking for a little green person with pointy ears.  He's partial to grande caramel macchiatos.  Have you seen him?

Actually, I'm a mermaid.  I grew these legs so I could come get a cup of coffee.  

Well--did you know this place is about to blow up?  I'm just sayin'.  I mean, I know we all need our caffeine fix, but we should really all get out outta here.  *checks watch*  Maybe after my latte.  

Hey, beautiful.  I can't actually tell you what I do.  *whispers*  But I can show you.  

Will you buy me this juice box?  I think my mom left.  

Doubtful?  Okay, well, bare minimum, it'd be a great conversation starter.  Well ... or ender.  Okay, you just might increase your chances of getting response (d).  Fair warning.  But at least YOU will find the conversation interesting.

No?  Well, I guess there's always honesty:

I'm a writer.  Sometimes I ignore my spouse and kids, even when screaming is involved, to finish a scene.  I forget to shower and eat real food.  (Do popcorn and chocolate count?)  I spend hours each day with people I made up out of thin air.  Or that I made up based on people I know.  (You'll never know which.)  I enter contests, I submit queries, and I fail.  A LOT.  But I wouldn't trade this life for anything else.  We writers are a great bunch of people.  We cheer each other on, giving pats on the shoulder and swift kicks in the rear when needed.  Or sarcastic tirades.  So look us up on Twitter sometime.  We'll do coffee.  You know, or #1linewed.