Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Being the Writer I Want to Be...

So I know on Monday's preview I promised politics but I changed my mind.

So, previously promised politics pardoned (that is called an alliteration), I will instead embark upon some musings about being a writer, and what it means to me when I tell people that I am a writer.

What happens in life a lot is that you meet somebody and they ask, "What do you do?" It's a kind of test to see if you have anything instantly interesting about you to spark further conversation. Such as:

Bob: What do you do?

Carlos: I'm an actor.

You see, this sparks a lot of conversation, because Bob wants to know a little more.

Bob: Oh? What have you been in? Anything I've seen?

Carlos: Do you watch Internet porn?

Bob: I thought you looked familiar.

Which, of course, brings up all sorts of further questions about Carlos and any number of questions about Bob.

When I used to get asked this question, it would often go like this:

New Person: What do you do, Elliot?

Me: I work at Target.

New Person: Oh. Sounds interesting.

And they would wander off in search of somebody else. Then, it became a minor detail in my life when I decided to relabel myself.

New Person: What do you do?

Me: I'm a writer.

New Person: Really? What have you written? Anything I would have read lately?

Me: Do you read Internet porn?

New Person: I thought your language patterns sounded familiar!

Me: I also work at Target, but that's not really how I define myself.

New Person: Oh, well, you have to pay the bills somehow.

Me: Yeah, true that. So what do you do?

New Person: I'm an actor...

See? See how much more conversation we got out of that? I would also mention that I am in school, which would further it even more from my end. It's not that I actually had any more to offer, I just pushed what's important in front of what's most stressful, which was, at the time, working at Target.

But nowadays, I no longer work at Target, and my job actually requires some explanation. And recently I have found myself responding differently to that question yet again.

New Person: So, what do you do, Elliot?

Me: I'm a Title Abstractor.

New Person: A what?

Me: Title Abstractor. I go to county offices around the area and research current and previous property owners for clients who are issuing title on a home or preparing a loan on a piece of property.

New Person: I thought your, um...something...was familiar.

Me: Oh, yeah, and I also write.

AH! It's getting pushed to the back again. And why? Well, I will tell you why.

You see, when I worked at Target, I was ashamed that I was as old as I was and working for (I will admit it) less than double-digits an hour. It was too much stress for too little cash. It was the kind of job that would have continued to suit me just fine until I got out of college and tried to enter the job market. If it had come to it, and I were to graduate and still be working at Target three months later with no job offers, I know I would have become severely mentally unbalanced. So it weighed heavy on my mind. To combat that, I forced myself to admit to the world that I am a writer first and foremost.

Nowadays, however, I like my job. This job is something I can see myself doing quite comfortably for several years. Don't get me wrong, I do want to get a job working for some sort of publication, eventually get my MFA in Creative Writing and become a writing teacher at a community college and finally get a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. But it is not a job I will be ashamed to have come three months after graduation.

But it suddenly dawned on me that I still need to assert myself as a writer. Because a writer is what I am. I am a writer, despite what my blog's URL may proclaim. So, to be true to myself, let me say this:

From now on, when someone asks me what I do, the conversation will go like this:

New Person: And what do you do?

Me: I'm a writer.

New Person: Oh, cool. How's that working out for you?

Me: Well, it's tough to actually be the kind of writer who can pay the bills, you know, but I enjoy what I do.

New Person: Well, good for you, living the dream. But, uh, how do you pay your bills?

Me: I've got a day job, real estate property record research. It's enough of a challenge I don't get bored and it keeps food on the table and ink and paper in my printer. And what do you do?

New Person: I'm a literary agent. Have you written anything I would've read?

Me: Oh, well, probably not, but I may have some samples of my work...

At which point I will reach into my messenger bag and hand that person several sheaves of paper, a copy of Currents 2007, a beautiful head shot of me dressed as a tennis star, a DVD of "How to Write Flash Fiction" and a business card that says, "This is my card."


Molly said...

Messenger bag = Man Purse

Don't deny it!

Becca said...

Just wanted to let you know that I sympathize, for a long time I had to tell people I was an "Assistant Technical Designer" and everyone was like - wtf is that?? Now I get to tell people I'm doing a master's in Clothing and Textiles - and get equally blank looks. Yayyyy!