There are few things that make me angrier than the smug smiles I sometimes get when someone asks me what I do.
“I’m a writer,” I say, in the innocence of my soul.
“No, I mean, what do you do for work?”
Work? WORK? Oh, yes, because obviously writing isn’t work. It’s what bored teenagers do on fanfiction sites and housewives do when they have a spare moment and it’s really only just for fun, because no one really writes … WORK?! Seriously. Fuck you.
Other variations of this include:
“Oh. That’s nice.”
“Aren’t you bored? I mean, you’re not doing anything.”
“So you’re, like, a journalist?” (Journalism, I now understand, is the only form of writing that most people recognize.)
“What do you really do?”
I try very hard to not let these statements get to me, but honestly … it’s insulting. Not just to me, although obviously I take it personally. To everyone who has ever tried to do something creative and succeeded or failed. Because it’s essentially saying that those people aren’t serious, they aren’t doing something worthwhile like being a lawyer. Because the world needs lots and lots of lawyers. Not writers, not artists, painters, filmmakers, actors, sculptors, designers or musicians. Lawyers.
All right, so here we go. I am about to make this abundantly clear and I do not want to hear a SINGLE ONE of my friends, acquaintances, or colleagues make such annoying, smug fucking statements ever again.
Yes, I’m a writer. I write every single day.
That is a profession. It is something I get paid for – not enough, but still. Paid.
Even if I did not get paid, guess what? I’d STILL be a writer. Because anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time sitting in front of a computer, a notepad, a typewriter, a notebook or scratching words into a fucking table is either a writer or a lunatic.
There is not a single writer I know who does not want to be paid for his/her work. But before you are paid you have to. Fucking. Write. You have to spend a lot of time doing it too. So all that time we spend not being paid? That’s IMPORTANT. And it does not make us crazy, stupid or delusional. It certainly doesn’t give other people the right to be smug, condescending, or inform us that we are crazy, stupid or delusional.
Do I plan on being successful? YES. I know that might not happen, but I also know that I cannot sit around bitching about how successful I could have been if I’d only written that book. I have to write the book to know. I have to try and work hard at it. And y’know something, even if I never make a living wage at it, I will STILL BE A WRITER.
So, I don’t want to hear it. I want an end to the condescension; I want other people in other professions to accord artists – ANY artist – the kind of respect you give to anyone else. I want folks to listen when they ask about our projects and not look off into the distance as though they never asked the question. Above all, I never want to hear the “what do you really do?” question ever again.
And if you don’t like it, you can go fuck yourselves.