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:~: Sunday, April 09, 2006 :~:

So . . . What do you do?

I get this question a lot. My husband works for a big pharmaceutical company and whenever we go to one of his company functions the topic of what I do invariably comes up. When I was teaching this question was an easy one to field. Teacher. Plain and simple. Most people have kids, everyone's been through school. I always had something to talk to people about. Schmoozing was a piece of cake.

Not so anymore.

A large part of my identity was tied to my career in education. When I quit working to stay home with the Gremlins, I went through a small identity crisis. Writing filled the gap. I thought when the Gremlins were older I'd go back to teaching. I'm not so sure anymore. I feel like I've finally found the one thing I'm meant to do. (Or maybe I just hope.) I never felt passionately about teaching the way I do about writing.

However, that's not something I can easily tell people when I'm stuck in an uncomfortable "meet and greet" situation, especially when it's a room full of professional men and women who know nothing about writing fiction. It's one of the reasons I dread doing anything work-related with the DH. So when the what do you do? question comes up, I usually smile and use the old fall back, I was a teacher. Right now I'm staying home with my kids.

Why not be honest? Am I embarrassed?

No. Not at all. I just don't want to deal with the inevitable questions that come from telling people I'm a writer. You are? What do you write? Are you published? Why aren't you published yet? And my favorite, Any news? If I had news I'd be shouting it from the rooftops. As it is, every time someone asks me that it feels like a slam because no, nothing's happened yet. People think writing's easy. Just like they think teaching's easy. For me it's just simpler not to even bring it up.

I won't get into the whole SAHM debate, about how it's the hardest job in the world, because most fortune-500 executives could care less. Even though people might outwardly agree with that statement, whenever I say I'm staying home with my kids, there's always an uncomfortable lull in conversation. The emotional writer in me wants to scream I'm more than just a mom (even though there's absolutely nothing wrong with being just a mom - it's the most rewarding job a woman will ever have). The rational writer in me says keep it quiet until you're ready to deal with the plethora of questions. It's an ongoing internal struggle I'm still waging and will probably continue to wage until the day I'm published.

So how do you answer this question? If you're an unpublished struggling writer, what's your first response? I'd love to hear your take on this age-old question.

3Comments:

Blogger Paty Jager said...

I'm the same way. My MIL is enough to keep anyone's yap shut! LOL When I go to a conference she asks - Did you sell a book? When she calls, if I say I'm writing, she acts like I'm not doing anything worthwhile.

When someone asks me what I do, I tell them my day job. 4-H Program Assistant. In the back of my mind I want to add "writer", but there again come all the questions, I don't have the answers for.

My best friend and my SIL as so supportive. They tell everyone I write and that they don't understand what is wrong with all those editors and agents! LOL

My husband us supportive. He hears all my rants about rejection letters and the industry, but I still don't think he truly believes it will happen. That I will one day be published.

I have over the last couple of years told more people I write and have really had some good feedback. My two colleagues know when the call comes I will not be working with them any more, so they ask the question hoping I haven't had any good news! LOL But they are very supportive and let me take time off for workshops and conferences.

So I don't know if all my rambling help or not. Because I don't run in sophisticated, professional circles. But my friends and family think I'm wonderful!

3:51 PM  
Blogger Carol B. said...

I usually don't have a choice of what to tell them. My husband usually introduces me and says, "She's a writer." Then the Q&A follows. I hate the one asking if I've been published. They just nod and look blank when I mention e-books, short stories and articles. It's like their eyes glaze over and you can almost see the cartoon bubble above them stating. "Oh. She's no good."

The only time I saw someone's eyes light up regarding my small accomplishments was while talking to a newspaper columist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He got it.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Argh. Paty and Carol, I can commisserate. I hate it when the DH tells people I write. I know he's just being supportive and is proud of me, but then I have to answer all those questions.

3:45 PM  

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