I have starting being a lot more open about my work as a writer. I am now proud to say ‘work’ even though it is not my main ‘income’. I used to get those two things confused but they are very different. Career and Job and Work and Income and Lifestyle and Finances are so complicated and intricuate, that I no longer try and extract them from the other, as I once did.
I do ‘work’ as a writer and I defend my position.
Here are some common responses I have received after telling people I am working as a writer – accompanied with a suggested reply. I hope they are helpful.
1. …But you have never studied writing !
I kindly reply that I have not ruled out any further study, I am just establishing wether it is right for me before I commit to another four year degree, then I bring up my long list of university study and the years that both my bachelor degrees too me to complete and how they both lead me to nothing.
2. You must have a lot of time on your hands if you can manage to write a book!
This response is often said in a self sacrificing martyrdom tone, as they tilt their head to one side and pretend to dream of a time when they too might have as much leisure time as you. Don’t by into it. It is a trick to make you feel guilty when you absolutely should not. Kindly tell your assailant that you have just the same amount of time in your day as everyone else, you just choose to spend your time writing a novel. It’s that simple.
3. You will be around in the day time tomorrow, could you just…?
This is not just an attitude people have towards writers but all people who work from home. This ‘errand running’ assumption is based on a common belief that working from home is not a real profession.
There is an implied lack of social responsibility towards the writer, making you feel as thought you are in some way in debuted to those who are less organised or who have made poor life choices.
The post office is a common one… house chores, going up the street, a few groceries, or my favourite – registering their car. Waiting for a bed to be delivered and getting keys cut for someone else’s house guest are a few of the odd jobs I have run for people. I fell into the ‘help everyone out‘ trap for a little while before I realised that I hated doing shit for other people. If you want to, that’s fine, but it’s not for me.
4. Why are you going home so early, you’re not even working tomorrow?
How many times have I been at a dinner party in the last few months and had people question me when I tried to go home…(Well only once, but it seemed really inappropriate). ‘But you don’t have to get up for anything tomorrow’ they said. I was really hurt by this. I guess what she meant was that I could start writing whenever I felt like it, but what it showed to me was a lack of understanding for how hard this work is. There is nothing helpful to say at times like this, cause mostly you are too hurt to be funny. Just remember that I know how hard it is for you – and so does every other writer out there. And go home! You need to sleep.
5. But you can’t even spell.
This comment was both hurtful and informative. I have since convinced myself that spelling is for editors and I am doing my best as an Australian to keep them employed and valid.
6. Don’t you have to hand write everything before it is any good?
After hearing from a friend about a writing lecturer who refused any work that was not first written as a long hand draft, I started to wonder about practice. She was laughing as she mentioned it, saying that there was a lot of writing essays first and then faking a hand written draft later. What a waste of time? I say.
Weather people like to romanticise their own practice or waste their own time or insist on doing things the ‘right way’, this folk lore of writing is another rule invented to exclude people who want to be writers. The truth is that you just need to do what works best for you and be willing to say it, even to your writing friends.
7. You still writing that little book of yours?
The key word in this question is little – like a hobby. This is not even meant as an insult. It is just a projection of themselves onto you. That is how they view their own hobbies, dreams, or lifetime goals – as something small, insignificant and easily dismissed.
Don’t take it personally, it is just how they approach their own creativity.
8. How do you expect to make any money from this?
I am very honest when people ask me this question and sometimes it annoys them. I simply answer that I don’t expect to make money from it. I expect to end up with my well deserved $2000 a year and a successful career in hospitality.
But I also expect to be the envy of every person I meet who doesn’t have the guts to do what I did. I expect to wake up every day loving my life and my career, satisfied that I am not wasting my time. I expect to spend time with the incredible characters I create, in worlds far beyond my own existence. I expect to find and connect with the most incredible colleagues around the country. I expect to be respected in my own home. I expect to not have to defend my choices.
I expect that one day I will look back on a diverse body of work with pride.