• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
  • Archives

Drowning In My Own Tears

Do you ever introduce yourself as: a poet, a novelist, a writer, a scribe, a journalist, an essayist, an ink man, a doodler, a sailor, a puppet, a cheerleader, a spy. ANd what do you do for a living? I torment people. I type. I scratch. I hope. I’m a screenwriter; would you like to touch my Oscar? Yes, it’s heavier than you think. Yes, I could kill you by bashing it into your stupid skull. From this you make a living? WHat do you think he makes? After taxes and commissions? How much of your home office do you write off? Do you get your agent a Christmas present? I write press releases and THEY ARE GREAT. I write grant proposals and would rather hang myself in a half-filled yard. I write jingles. Text books. Holiday cards. Recipes. I’ve written over four hundred love letters to a man who doesn’t love me. I text. I twat. I instagram. I tumblr. I love. I eat. I snow. I can’t stop crying and I don’t really want to. I am an artist. A prophet. A season in hell. I myself am hell. I am an agent.

How do you describe what you do?

47 Responses

  1. i’m an undercover agent for the overarching reality

  2. I say, for money, I write advertising. Everything else I write for fun.

  3. Nobody asks.

    I haven’t sold anything since the last time I said I hadn’t sold anything. I’m not sure what I am, these days.

  4. Depends what day and who asks. Sometimes I say “I’m a home mom,” and just grin all Stepfordwifey. Sometimes I say, I write YA. Then they say, what’s that? If I want to avoid the whole, “Oh, where can I buy your book” thing, I tell them I’m in charge of a bunch of facebooks for food companies and I’m damage control when someone claims that they found a rat in their bag of crispy wonton strips.

    • But that sounds fascinating! I would want to hear all about it. So much more interesting than *my* job. And then I’d ask you where I could buy your book.

  5. I’m a saver. I save pups and kids and cash and coupons and photographs and orange Taco Bell hot sauce packets. I’m an arbitrator. I take all the phone calls from the family members who don’t speak to each other and tell them it’s okay, it will be okay, relax, or Yes, he’s a total fucker, that fucker. I watch the same bad movies over and over again and cry. I teach writing to kids who have a hell of a lot more to say than I do. I play hide and seek every evening with the dog and my husband can’t decide who is having the most fun. Somewhere in there I claim to write.

  6. i am the mother of a 16-year-old and that pretty much means i’m a bitch, 24/7.

    i tell people that i write short stories and they vacate the premises, presto-magic.

  7. I am a writer of the possible. A reminder, a secret keeper. A soothsayer a power of change and a grasp at hope. I am bigger than you know and I will leave my soul print all over this world. Little smudges of hope and love so you remember I was here and it mattered. All the bad, cruel, hard things we all endure, the poisson we swallow it matters. I write about my past and present and I create my tomorrow.

  8. I’ll either describe it in a roundabout way or avoid it altogether. The latter is due to the diminished prospects within my country. In a world where almost everyone is defined by their -paid- occupations, it’s quite difficult to say that I’m a writer. I can’t get my head around saying that. Perhaps this conflict is directly related to my immediate ancestors, relatives that immigrated from Europe without so much as a high school diploma, never mind a wide literary repertoire. When I went to school, and most recently returned to complete a university degree, most of my classmates had parents with literary backgrounds, even university lecturers sometimes presume that their students have parents who grow up reading Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. My parents had no idea who these authors were and such things were insignificant during a time of terror as well as social and economic upheaval associated with WWII. I still have relatives that think that writing is a self indulgent activity pursued by people who live a cushy life and in a way it is a little self indulgent, not that I feel guilty about it, but I can see their point of view. People that have had their educations cut short cannot comprehend the significance of reading and writing as an occupation or a leisurely pursuit, not when they’ve had to work upward of 10 hours a day.
    I feel odd when I’m prompted to describe my current postgrad master. It goes something like this:
    Person: What are you enrolled in now?
    Me: A master in creative writing.
    Person: (polite smile while, in their mind they think ‘WTF is that for, and what job can you really get with that anyway? How self indulgent.) Oh, okay.
    If I said I was studying medicine or law it would be, ‘oh yeah, that’s quite interesting, etc’, but a master in creative writing is a joke to them and I suppose they are right. In Australia it’s quite difficult to get a job in publishing. When you’re over 30, getting that job in publishing is impossible. The market is tiny compared to the US and all that.

    So yeah, a roundabout response to say that I have difficulty with introducing myself as a writer.

    • You know, Ana, I get it that we all have to make a buck, but what I don’t get is the assumption which some people seem to have that it’s all and only about employment. It’s as though getting your ticket punched, or your union card is what it’s all about. What about learning because it intrigues you? What about the good, bad, and ugly you encounter along the way? That’s saying nothing about the skills that come with it.

      When I was a cop, I slogged through grad school over an eight year period, and my partner was mystified as to why I would do such a thing, and wanted to know what I was going to do with the degree. I never was able to get across to him that ultimately, it was the experience, and not the utility in any direct way.

      Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke. And best of luck to you, Ana.

    • Ana, Try not to let your past, or other people’s expectations/opinions, get in the way of your forward path as a writer. Find other like-minded people and hang out with them.
      BTW: Medicine isn’t all that interesting. The culture is debilitating. Trust me.

    • Ana banana:
      I am black, white, I am Catholic, fundamentalist, Jewish, I am constipated, regular, I love Rocky Road I hate lima beans I am what I am Sam, WTF green eggs and ham. If you are a writer you are a writer, it is you, it is me. Be proud. Redefine what it means for you and all the Aussie writers that come after you. Say it, be it, don’t apologize, don’t embellish, don’t make-up to explain just sat it, I AM A WRITER. Bless your education baby because I’d give anything to have had that at your age.

    • Hi Frank, november, Wry,
      Thank you for your kind responses. I’m blushing as I type.
      I agree with everything that you have all said.

  9. Very quietly.

  10. I write comic crime novels.

  11. I always say, “I used to be a psychiatrist but now I am being maintained. It’s a long story.” Nobody ever asks me to explain.

  12. People assume I am a lazy bum, so I don’t have to say anything.

    My sister in law accosted me on the street the other day. Through smiling lips she told me people here look down on people like me who don’t work. She said other stuff too, but I couldn’t hear over The Girl from Ipanema tune playing in my head. I felt no need to explain that I am working my butt off on professional certifications, starting a business, and writing a novel after everyone goes to bed. It doesn’t matter. I also didn’t tell her that I am boarding a plane bound for home tomorrow with my beautiful girls who deserve so much more from people who are supposed to love them; that we’re done with the cruelty.

  13. I usually introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Frank.”, which is sometimes true. If asked what I do, I usually joke about doing very little, being a kept man, retired cop, small boat sailor, or writing for a magazine. It’s very situational, and I often don’t volunteer much information, and have little trouble getting others to tell me about themselves.

    Listening, rather than talking about myself may go back to my cop days, but it’s also because I’m curious about people and their stories. After all, I’m in the original cast of my play, but I haven’t seen theirs.

  14. I wear scrubs to work so most people assume I’m a nurse. If asked, I usually just say I work in the lab because saying I’m a microbiologist or a clinical scientist creates a filmy haze over their eyes that makes me want to sneer.

    So, yeah, by trade, I seek out the cause of infection in sick people. I have yet to sell a piece of writing so it’d be fraudulent to call myself a writer. But I am trying damned hard to make this little hobby of mine (i.e., writing) into something lucrative.

  15. I pick things up and put them down, I am a dog hair sweeper and columnist. Most of all I’m a watcher.

  16. My response is situational, but mostly no one asks because I’m seriously deep into my new reclusive lifestyle. I do a lot of things in this world and I write about it all. Those near & dear to me know my worth. The rest don’t matter.

  17. I’m a writer. It’s when they ask “What do you write?” that I get tripped up.

  18. I am mother to four and I roar.

  19. I usually tell people I’m a research librarian, which is a fancy way of saying I’m a librarian.

  20. When I’m asked the question, I usually reply: “I try hard everyday to be a nice person. It’s a full-time job.”

  21. professional comma wrangler

  22. I don’t introduce myself as a writer. Too scary and not exactly true. No publishee. When I sell a book, I’ll buy the shirt with it lettered across the chest. Yes, I buy my agent gifts, very expensive gifts. Each of the twelve days of Christmas, I lavish her with gift certificates for the spa, European trips, cars. I had to buy one for her husband–my genrosity was pissing him off. In truth, I don’t have an agent. Interested?

  23. I’m a retired teacher.

  24. I move. From car to train to city office, I play nice, sometimes not, I wander the city in a five minute excuse to find a book to remind me who I am, I return to train, car, home, band concerts, school plays, yes, Mommy sees you, wouldn’t miss it, where am I, who am I, a half-assed business woman, a half-assed mom, missing everything in teaspoonfuls allowing me to be everywhere and no where. I am a nowhere woman looking for a story within hundreds of pages of draft, before the alarm goes off and I am lost again.

  25. I think you’ve pretty much covered it, Betsy.

  26. I am an enabler of other people’s dreams. It’s time for my own.

  27. After buck dancing around who I really am (a rapscallion, a ne’er-do-well) and talking about what the tax records say I am — a part time low level mail sorter — while neglecting to mention other sources of income, I say that I write. Some folks mutter, Ah, I see and eventually walk away, but it’s amazing how many say, Oh, I write, too. And then I’ve met someone with whom to commiserate.

  28. Most who know me, know what I USED to do…b/c it lasted for as long as I’ve known most of them and now they know I don’t do that anymore. (small town, you see) The question usually comes as, “So…, what are ya doin’ nowadays?” My answer, “oh, I stay pretty busy, with the house and all.”

    For me, this whole writing for a living doesn’t count unless I get paid. I think of it like running a marathon…until you’ve actually done one, I think it sounds lame to say, “I’ve been thinking about running a marathon.” I’m all about doing, not talking about doing. For me to say “I’m a writer ,” is like saying “I’m trying to get published.” This is my personal feeling – and so, those of you that tell folks, “I’m a writer…” kudos to you for being so brave – I don’t want to deal with the wtf looks or the questions.

  29. My husband and readers call me a writer. I am simply relieving the pressure of so many words dancing through my head demanding to be let free. When asked, I say I blog and I am editing my first attempt at a memoir. That gets one of two responses…a noncommittal “that is nice” and we move on to them or “what is it about?” I love those people. They are the adventurers. The endlessly curious and we usually spend hours in long deep conversations and become fb friends. It works for me. I find it is the non readers who tend to brush aspiring writers aside. Life is a buffet…moving on

  30. writer.

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