Sunday, November 18, 2007

So... What Is It You Do, Exactly?

"So... what is it you do, exactly?"

I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked this question. From friends. And relatives. And people whom I assumed understood what I do.

Honestly and truly, I never thought what I did was very mysterious. I mean, I write. Sure, what I write is different from what other writers, journalists, reporters, poets, playwrights and authors write. But we're all basically doing the same thing.

I think.

Or I thought.

But at this point I'm starting to ask myself: What is it I do, exactly?

At social networking events, I automatically describe myself as a freelance writer who primarily writes and ghostwrites articles, website content, press releases, advertising/marketing copy, business reports and blogs.

The response to this incredibly dull description is usually a blank stare. Blinking ensues. Drinks are sipped. Awkward silence is followed by light coughing.

Then, the question. "Have you written any books?"

Well, no. Well, yes. I mean... I've been published in a book and I'm working on a nonfiction book.

(Does that count?)

In the end, I usually have to describe several articles I've written and the magazines/publications/websites where they've appeared. By then, the other person has a better grasp of my chosen line of work... and he or she is ready to vamoose because I've become tiresome.


I suppose I naively assumed that everyone would just understand (and perhaps even be interested in) what a professional freelance writer does because there seem to be so many of us out there right now.

I was wrong.

Therefore, I'm putting a call out to my fellow writers... How do you answer the age-old question, "What do you do?"

Is there any solid response? Or are you forced to try to explain how it is that you can make a paycheck at 1:00 a.m. while you're sitting in bed half-naked with your cat, your snoring husband, and your laptop?

(On a side note, the next time someone asks, I'm thinking of answering, "Well, aside from murdering drifters and prostitutes upon occasion, I like to write." Think that would get me attention? Or perhaps a stay in a penitentiary?)


SzélsőFa said...

one might also say: I feed those who do not have fantasy and rely upon mine.

Billy said...

People are forever asking me what I really do, thinking that ghostwriting and editing=moonlighting. Or, they say, "When are you going to get a real job."

The Quoibler said...


I LOVE YOUR RESPONSE! Love it, love it, love it! What a great way to answer that age-old question!


Ah, the "real job" statement. Doesn't that one just make your heart melt?

Church Lady said...

Oh, There's a scene (the funniest one) in John Elder Robison's book "Look Me in the Eye" where he's at a fancy party with a bunch of smarty pants and they ask him what he does, and he says, 'sanitation engineer' and oh my god it's hysterical after that...he goes into the hardships of riding on a trash truck (which of course he doesn't do) So funny!!

The Quoibler said...

Church Lady:

It's funny you should bring that up... I'm going to a networking event next Tuesday evening and I think I'm going to tell people I'm either a homicidal maniac (with a straight face, of course) or a nuclear engineer. Or perhaps I'll describe myself as drifter. I'll probably do a post asking for suggestions... then I can do a follow-up to let everyone know how it worked! ha ha ha I cannot wait!