Before I begin, let me don my flame retardant suit. Good. Let's open this can of worms. I'm not a writer. Not really. To date I've made enough money to buy one decent dinner, a case of ramen noodles and beer. To be clear "case" describes the quantity of both ramen and beer.
Look, I acknowledge that the word artist encompasses a certain way of thinking and that not all artists make a living creating art. People are certainly free to define themselves how they want. For example, when I was seven, I told everybody I was a princess. I was not, in fact, a princess. None of my family is related to royalty or anybody who was ever famous for anything.
The guy in the picture is a basketball player... at heart. Unfortunately this is what he does when he meets new people.
Stranger: "What do you do?"
Man: "I'm a basketball player."
Stranger: "Really? What team do you play for?"
Man: "Oh, well I'm not on a team. I'm working on my jump shot and free throw."
There are risks inherent in labeling one's self as a writer too soon. This is one of them. Lets look at the same scenario again. This time the social faux pas won't be so clear. To authors anyway.
Stranger: "What do you do?"
Aspiring Author: "I'm a writer."
Stranger: "Really? What have you sold?"
Man: "Oh, well, I haven't sold anything. I'm working on a novel. It's a romance between a bear and a chipmunk...."
Over the years I've read plenty of blog posts from aspiring authors. I've read tons of blog posts about what to do in this situation. This issue seemed of great importance, until I realized the inherent social life suicide in claiming to be something you're absolutely not. People embellish all the time. It's practically expect. Here in Korea everybody who works at Samsung or LG are engineers. A great deal of them work on the assembly line. With technology the line is fine enough to call oneself an engineer.
Look, I'm not say that authors who call themselves writers lying, but they are intentionally misunderstanding the question. When someone asks, "What do you do?" they are not asking about your dreams or your aspirations. People are asking about your job because that tells them a lot about who you are and where you are in life. Later, after your relationship has developed from stranger to one of friendship, you can tell them that in your heart, you're really a writer. In the meantime, if you sell chicken for a living, stop being embarrassed about that. Nine-nine people out of one hundred won't look down on you for the job you do. And they certainly won't look down on you if you take ownership.
If you cannot resist announcing that you're a writer to strangers say something like this: "Well, I work full time at the 711. In my spare time I write. Maybe one day I'll get published. What about you? What do you do?"
Another pitfall of calling oneself a writer too soon is taking yourself too seriously. And that's exactly what inspired this diatribe.
Writing Commandment 1. Never take yourself too seriously.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).