Friday, February 02, 2007

Hi, I'm Allison, and I'm a Writer

I'm curious how you deal with people who don't consider what you do to be a real "job." I'm so tired of the little ribbing comments by friends and even a few family members who think that "writer" is the same thing as "unemployed."

Ah yes, the old dinner party conversation of, "oh, you're a writer? What sort of things do you do?" Cue: smug glances to the rest of the party, suspecting that the answer will be penning love letters in my Strawberry Shortcake journal or such.

I have to say, after years of answering such idiotic questions, I still get immense satisfaction out of saying, "Well, I have a novel coming out this year, and I write for X, Y, and Z magazines." I dunno, call me immature, call me competitive, call me someone who likes to one-up people who try to one-up me...whatever. I still enjoy it. If only because they're so intent on assuming that what I do is nothing more than a hobby. Yes, in fact, I remember one friend of my in-laws asking me just that: how my writing hobby was coming along and then stating how nice it was that I had something to fill my time. As if she were referring to gardening or something. Snort.

Anyhoo, I deal with folks who make these snide insinuations by a) letting them know that I'm a professional, as indicated by my comments above. As soon as you firmly let them know that you're not a hack, their smugness usually turns to tail-between-the-legs admiration pretty quickly, and there's little I enjoy more than watching these asshats try to dig themselves out of these holes. I also b) shrug off the fact that people judge what I do for a living. (Yes, I really do shrug it off, despite the enormous satisfaction I derive from proving them wrong.) I mean, what am I going to do - go around changing the minds of people who assume that "freelance writer" is synonymous with "freeloader?" Indeed, I'm not. If people want to think that I waste my days away watching Days of Our Lives and Oprah, well, what can I do about it? They don't see the checks coming in or the phone ringing or my Outlook inbox filling up. I think changing their impressions of you only matters when they're interfering with your writing time: the neighbor who assumes you don't have anything to do all day so keeps stopping by; your child's friend's mom who keeps trying to set up playdates during office hours. To these folks, I just say, "you know, even though I work from home, I treat it like any other office job, so I really can't be available during this time. I'm sorry." Period.

How do you guys handle folks who assume you're nothing but a loafer?


Unknown said...

Allison, although I get very few snide comments about freelancing, ther've been a few times when I've gotten pleasure by saying, "I've written three books, and I write for X, Y, and Z." My MO is to keep things vague because I really hate spending my free time listening to these people yammer on about, "I've always thought about writing a book!"

corine said...

There is worse. Never mind what people think. I'm a mother of two and write four to six hours a day, but because I have yet to make a dime from my writing, I often feel like I am indeed a loafer. A loafer with a nasty addiction to writing.
Or maybe it is about what people think.

Anonymous said...

I get this a lot from my own mother. "Oh well, when you start working you won't have these deadlines."

Drives me nuts.

Jess Riley said...

Sometimes when I tell people I sold a novel they just ignore it entirely. It's actually kind of funny; I can almost hear them thinking, "Oh, great, another 'nut' that self-published a sub-par, barely literate memoir." In fact, I had this very experience today! I can't wait to put her on my email list when the book comes out. ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just had this experience about an hour ago, and I handled it just as you do, Allison. "What do you do?" this woman asked me, after telling me all about her Important Job. "I'm a writer." I then received the somewhat pitying look of someone trying not to make you feel bad for having such a lame excuse-for-an-"occupation." Then I followed it up with a brief resume. I usually have a streak of brag-guilt when this happens, but I didn't today. :)

Jen A. Miller said...

Here's what I usually get:

"What do you do?"

"I"m a writer."

"And you can make a living doing that?"

Ugh. I also get people who say, "well, you're not really a writer if you haven't published a book, right?"

That's right. I do this typing thing all day for sport.

Like Allison, listing some of the places I write for usually shut people right up. I still have a problem with my parents thinking I can drop everything during working hours to do them favors, but that's what caller ID is for :-)

Renee said...

Ah, yes-I've had lots of experience with this! After freelancing for two years I got a job as an editor at a Big Company. I can't believe how many people praise me for having gotten a "real job" when in fact I work fewer hours than I did as a freelancer. One thing that helped stave off inane comments: dropping some names of the glossies I've written for, and also mentioning my eponymous web site. But in my mind it's a never-ending "battle." Sigh. I do think people's attitudes are slowly changing, though, with more and more people working from home.

kate hopper said...

I only have a few mag publications, so I don't have the snubbing power yet. And when I say I'm looking for an agent for my book, people always suggest I self-publish. URGH! This makes me crazy. They look at me like I'm a troll, and I wish I could smack their pitying expressions right off their faces.

Mrs. Z said...

As I'm certain you know, being a writer at home means much more work than any "real job" I've ever had! When I first started writing from home, I had to train those in my life to think of my employment status as "self-employed," not "unemployed!"