Exactly what is it you do again?


How many times have you been confronted by the above question from a pompous individual during your lifetime? I was reading an article posted by Jay Lake on this very subject several months ago in relation to those of us who write.

Whenever you answer by telling the usually disinterested questioner that you write, either their eyes glaze over before they move away to annoy someone else, or they start asking you inane questions like, “Will I have read anything you have written?” Or they may even say something completely self-important such as, “Oh yes I’ve wanted to write my life story for positively ages, but I simply can’t find the time.”

I leave you to imagine what my answers would be to either question. But here’s a hint for the first – a few expletives would be included. After all I’m not a damned mind reader! As for the second, I would remain silent while forcing a smile before simply moving away, silently saying thank god. The last thing we all need is yet another autobiography!

Writing is quite simply the most demanding of all the disciplines. Reading the product of our efforts is easy and relaxing, writing it is anything but. If you are serious about writing, your days are fraught with countless hours of anxiety. Your every waking moment is given over to how you constructed that last sentence, or what will happen next in the plot.

Most people still believe that writing is not a proper job, and that it is the preserve of the idle and impecunious. They could not be more wrong if they tried. Writing is certainly no nine to five occupation by any stretch of the imagination. Forget about commuting to the workplace Monday to Friday and being paid on a regular basis.

Most of us make very little if anything from the product of those thousands of hours we spend sweating blood over our current work in progress to deliver that, novel, short story or article you happily read on your way to and from work via your smartphone or laptop, or on your holidays.

So the next time you ask someone what they do and they reply “I write,” don’t ignore them or ask them inane questions, nor turn your nose up with a superior air. Think on. A writer’s existence is one of the toughest, least financially rewarding and tortuous within society today. Writing is definitely not for the faint hearted or the affected social climber. Only the brave and completely dedicated write while sacrificing a normal existence to fulfill their dreams.

As for the growing number within society who insist on using the word author as a Christian or family name on social media sites like Facebook, foolishly believing that they will impress, why not put them on the spot by using that inane question, “Will I have read anything you have written?” as a comment on the next post you see by anyone on FB using author as part of their name. I’m betting that most will simply ignore you.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word actually means someone who writes books as a profession. Those of us who actually qualify simply use the name we were given. We have no need to put on airs and graces unlike the social climbers out there…

Don’t get me wrong here folks; there are a few genuine writers on FB who thought it would be a good idea at the time when they initially set up their account, who now can’t remove the word due to the complexities of Facebook’s totally baffling system, most of whom I know. But they number in the single digits.