Monday, April 26, 2010

Shhh...Did she tell you her secret?

I don't know about you but I sometimes cringe when someone asks me---"What do you do for a living?" It's a common question especially when you just meet a person but I tend to downplay my answer. 

What? Why, you ask?

The reaction.

I'm an interior designer is my answer first.  The reaction I usually get is --that is great, how fun that must be, wow, you must work with great people, or you must be very creative.  Where all of these are positive and I sort of blush when I receive them I sort of downplay it.  I don't know why-I should be proud but to me it is just a job. To me it is something I just do.

Now when I follow it up with --I'm also a writer--the reaction is not always the same. First, I usually get --oh do you write for a design magazine? No, is my response. 
"Then what do you write?"
"Well, right now I'm writing a young adult/sci fi romance novel." This is when my eyes squint because I can see that it is processing in their head because their eyes have glazed over.
Now once the haze disappears there are many different responses that can occur.

1. The supporter---will usually ask how long I have been doing this to which I respond for years.  I just gained the confidence to pursue it so I'm taking a leap of faith and going for it.  It's my passion. 
The supporter will gush and smile possibly giving me a hug stating it is great that I'm doing this and good luck!

2. The confused--will ask what young adult, sci fi, romance is.  I'll explain and then they will sort of be supportive.  Usually a money question will come into play but is not emphasized. The conversation would just continue onto another subject--meanwhile I'm ready to explode with details of my journey so far but I let it go.

3. The blow off--will ask what the confused asked then tell me that it is a difficult field and doesn't luck play into it. They will proceed to tell me there is no money involved totally disregarding that I said it was my passion. They may even throw in that it is nice that I have a hobby.  My face turns red in response to the hobby comment. 

This is why it took me so long to tell people --confidently--that I write and I'm writing a book.  I'm getting better at in fact I sometimes corner people when I talk about it because I'm so excited. I'm sorry if I have done this to you.

It took me a while to get to put on my tough skin but I'm at the point that I just don't care. I'm happy.  I  know writing comes from deep down in my heart and if people don't like it.  Oh well! I have come too far to worry about it. I must use the comments from the neigh sayers to fuel the passion and to prove to them that I just might be able to do this and if I don't then I can at least say I tried. So go for it people don't hide what you love to do.  You must take that chance.  Learn all you can and write, write, write. You never know what can happen tomorrow.

How long did it take you to tell people that you are a writer and that it was more than just a "hobby"?

How would you react to the (3) types of responses above?

Don't forget tomorrow is Beta Club at Fiction Groupie.  Have a great day!


  1. Well, I will call it a "hobby" until I see my name on the cover of book. I have no trouble telling people I do it. It's when they ask what I have written that I get all tongue-tied. For some reason I can't explain my book in person for the life of me! How's that - a writer who can't explain their book? LoL.

    I've only met a supporter thus far and I would probably be alittle embarassed if not a little irriated with the blow-off. I could work with the confused.


  2. I started saying "I'm a writer" first recently as well. I usually just leave it at that, short and sweet... if people want to know more, like what genre I work in or where I'm published, they'll ask.

    Nice post... definitely something we all struggle with!

    Have a great Monday.

  3. I haven't said it out loud yet. But I'm brewing the courage right now.

    And I would cry to all of those answers. Just because I have trouble believing a supporter and it feels like they're just laughing at me or brushing me off. And the other two are just disappointing. But of course I would smile and move on in the conversation. After a few minutes I would run to the bathroom and bawl. (Which is why I haven't said 'I'm a writer' yet.)

  4. I've had the response where the person looked down her nose at me like she was better than me because I'm a lowly writer and she's not. No wonder I try to avoid her whenever possible. ;)

    I used to be a drug rep, and was somehow ashamed of that. Maybe 'cause of the stigma associated with it. I've never been ashamed to admit I'm a writer. Well maybe just once . . . with miss I'm-better-than-you-cause-I'm-not-a-writer. ;)

    Great post!

  5. I stayed reclusive about it for years for all the reasons you mentioned. But then I was so busy fielding questions about all the kids I had that most people never started in on me about the writing. People can be so rude.

  6. I don't usually say it, actually. Everyone just somehow knows that I am, like friends and extended family whom I can't remember ever telling that I was, just knows that I'm a writer. I think my husband goes around telling people behind my back--he's inordinately proud of me, for some reason. We ran into one of my old English professors at the grocery store this weekend, and he immediately told him that I was in a critique group and that I'd submitted a short story for publication. Ridiculous! And embarrassing. :-)

    So I'm probably not the best person for this...

  7. I was close to you in that area. I kept it to myself (other than hubby and close friends). Hubby was the one who let the cat out of the bag after about a year, and now I don't mind talking about it so much.

  8. Sometimes I still don't mention it, even with a book coming out this fall. Besides, science fiction tends to get the weird looks from people.
    And there's a fourth category - those who don't even comment or ask!

  9. Oh that hobby comment drives me crazy. It makes me feel like I do macrame or something. Honestly, I tell very few people that I'm a writer. People in real life that is :) not blogging life. I'm afraid to get the responses you get. I'm afraid someone will pat my head and say "good for you, what a nice HOBBY!"

  10. Every writer faces the dreaded question. I like how you've made a list of the types of responses you get and how you tailor your answers accordingly.

    I always blow people away by first telling them I'm a substitute teacher. When I've gotten their attention, I then tell them I'm a writer. Before they can ask where they can buy my book, I add that, "I'm not yet published." Then they ask the inevitable, "What kind of books do you write?" This is when I impress them by telling them, "Children's books, mostly YA." Then they ask for my autograph.

  11. It's taken me years to realize I wanted to be a writer so this just really started this year. I have told those who have asked what I do that I'm a data analyst but I always follow with writing. Writing is so much more interesting to me and my friends and peeps around me.

    My co-workers are the confused and the blow-off, but my family and friends are supportive. I think they are supportive because they know it's what I want.

  12. I had been building my writing portfolio for about a year before I realized I wanted people to know I'm a writer. I think that's the key: what do you want people to know about you? For me, their reaction doesn't matter. Each time I say out loud that I'm a writer, it confirms that reality for me. It feels good. If people don't share my enthusiasm, so be it. However, I never talk about my passion for the craft with people who I suspect don't "get" it.

    Luckily, there are enough who do!

  13. I struggle with this a lot. I actually will not talk to anyone about my writing who is not another writer or doesn't already know about me and my writing.

    In fact it kind of ticks me off when my GF tells random people at social gatherings or whatever that I've written a novel. I prefer to avoid the awkward conversations that usually ensue and besides, even though I am proud of what I've done, like Justine I won't consider it a real accomplishment until I'm published.

    Then there is the example of when I met a fellow writer. Her husband works with my GF's step dad. We all went out to dinner together. We had a great conversation about writing and our hopes and dreams and so forth and then we exchanged emails (I was hoping to offer to critique for each other). When I wrote to her she never replied.

  14. I still have a hard time mentioning that I'm a writer. Usually I just say I'm a teacher and leave it at that. The longer I get to know someone, the more likely my writing will come out (but more like "I write" rather than "I'm a writer"). I just hate the dreaded "Are you published?" question. To so many non-writers, you can't be a writer unless you're published. One day I'll be confident enough to loudly proclaim to the world that I AM A WRITER! :)

  15. i typically don't tell people until i know them well.
    Until i become a published author - then EVERYONE will know...

  16. You missed a common response I get: The Blank Stare. They look at you vacantly, then turn to the person next to you and strike up a conversation with them instead.

    It's taken me over ten years to call myself a writer outside my family. I'm learning how to not feel like a decrepit when I say it out loud.

  17. Oh, I so feel your pain here. I do tell people I'm a writer since I don't really do anything else! It's taken me awhile to feel comfortable with this and thank goodness I have some non-fiction published so I can dispel the pitying look on their faces! I usually meet with a mixture of confusion and /or patronisation (is that a word/).

  18. I never mention I'm a writer. BUT, if the other person were to open that door and say they were I would love to engage in a conversation.

  19. I am a supporter... no matter what career is involved. But I'm no a big proponent of telling people I write. It's just easier to not tell them.

    I do love the fact that you're an interior designer, though. That's what I really wanted to be when I grew up... oh, and a writer too. :)

  20. I've only said it to my best friends. They're semi-supportive, but sometimes, they can be rather blow-off-ish, too, and it makes me extremely hesitant about telling others. I almost never say that I'm a writer -- but it's easy because as a student, I'm never asked that. I just say I'm a science and English major.

    I probably won't be vocal about it until I'm published though.

  21. One time, I didn't say antying, I was a the library writing and someone I knew walked up to me and said, "You're writing? How cute!"
    Talk about a blow to the ego. LOL

  22. I know this topic all too well! I only recently started telling people that I'm a writer, sometime in the past year. It takes courage, and people's reactions aren't always ideal, but I have to be honest with myself. Since I'm aiming for publication, it's more than just a hobby, and I'm owning it. :)

  23. When I received a contract for my first book, I notified everyone I know. Friends that I’ve known for over 40 years were totally in shock. I’d never ‘admitted’ to being a writer. I’m better now at telling people what I do, and those friends are now very supportive.

  24. I say I am a writer, yet to be published, actively pursuing my craft. But people still don't get why I pound the keyboard day in and day out to try to create these fictional worlds inhabited by fictional people who nobody knows but me and my CPs and a few contest judges.

    Ah well. That's okay. I sometimes don't get why I do it either. I just know I can't stop.

    And here are some worse comments I've heard from people who don't get the biz at all:

    -when are you sending your books to the publisher?
    -why aren't you published yet? Aren't you trying hard enough?
    -oh, romance? those must be fun and easy to write. Where do you do your research? nudge nudge wink wink say no more

    And that's when MY eyes glaze over and I long for a bunch of writers to hang out with and I pretend to be interested in the latest school gossip or whatever.

  25. I don't say I'm a writer by profession. I say I'm a teacher, since that is how I earn my income. Occasionally I mention to people that I'm a writer or that I'm working on a book if it comes up in an appropriate conversation, but I tend to blow it off since I'm not published.

  26. ...jury duty two weeks ago. Had to drop my name for the day and simply be known as "Juror 34." Therefore, when it was my turn to stand up in front of the prosecuting attorney and my fellow jurors and answer the dreaded, "what do you do for a living?" question, I looked him square in the face and said, "I'm a writer."

    I believe it was Elle who mentioned the blank stare...that was the response I received.

    When I sat back down, the juror next to me leaned over and whispered, "If you're a writer, how's come I've never heard of you?"

    I turned to him and asked, "Really? You've never seen anything written by Juror 34? I can't imagine why!"

  27. For years, I kept it to myself. A few friends knew I wanted to be a writer. Then I decided to actually go for it (not that long ago) and wrote my first novel. That's when I started finding writer friends. After a while (end of last year) I decided I'd try something else and submit short stories to whoever didn't flee on seeing me/my e-mails/letters/stuff. And consequently I started telling people about it. Conversations usually go like this:

    "What do you do for a living?"

    "I work as a translator to pay the bills. And I'm a writer. Which doesn't pay, but it's fun. And if I never become famous, that's totally cool, as long as I can write."

    Then they stare at me as if I am crazy and leave it at that. Or they go ahead and ask if they can read something I wrote. In which case I either refer them to my short story blog or promise to send them something in German if they don't read English.

    I guess since I am very straightforward when it comes to what I do for a living (translating) and what I am (a writer), there are hardly any negative responses. (Maybe they think I am crazy.)