The other day someone asked me, “What do you do?”
Ugh. I hate that question. I know that people ask it to be social and to start a conversation, but it makes my job synonymous with my identity. That’s great if you have a universally cool, unusual, or impressive job, but it’s so easy for people to look down at you if they don’t see your occupation as being worthy.
I was a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years. My husband’s job required our family to move frequently, so we decided for continuity that I would be home with the kids. Caring for our boys was the best job I ever had and, I believe, an incredibly important one. I don’t look down on parents who work outside of the home because not everyone has the money or the inclination to be a full-time caregiver. But, for our family, having one stay-at-home parent was the best choice.
I am still amazed at how many people don’t look at caring for the family as a worthy job. I had a lot of conversations like this when my children were small:
“What do you do?”
“I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
“Oh. But what do you do?” or “I could never do that. I have to have a job to keep me sane.”
And that would be the end of that.
As my children grew older and became more independent, I had several interesting part-time jobs, but taking care of my family remained my number one priority. Oddly, no matter how few hours I worked outside of the home (at one point I got paid for a mere five hours a week), I identified with the outside job when faced with the “What do you do?” question. It was just darn easier and less ego crushing.
Now my kids are out of the house and I am crafting a new life with my husband. My time is my own and I can fully commit to my passion: writing. I’m one lucky, happy girl.
Then it happened again the other day. I was asked, “What do you do?” This time I proudly said that I was a writer. That answer, of course, led to the inevitable questions, “What do you write?” and “Are you published? Where can I read your work?” Then the dreaded “I wrote a children’s book last week because my grandkids like my stories. Will you read it and let me know who to send it to?”
Yes, I am published beyond this blog. I have been an editor and contributor for a small magazine, written newsletters and articles, and have been published in a couple of nationally distributed publications. Those credits are well in the past. My only projects at the moment are this blog and my first cozy mystery, in progress. Neither add to our bank accounts, but, to me, this is as important as any job I have had.
So should I be calling myself a writer? Or am I only aspiring?
A quick tour of the internet shows that this football of a question has been kicked around for many years. Most agree that you can call yourself a writer any time as long as you make writing a priority. It may not be your day job, but everyone needs to start somewhere. If you need to write in order to fill a hole in your soul, you are a writer. Fly that flag and believe in yourself.
Then there are those who see a difference between being a writer and being an author. In a nutshell, the difference between those titles is publication.
Still others think you can’t call yourself a writer unless you produce books that lift you into the literary stratosphere and put you on par with Hemingway, Joyce, or Shakespeare.
That soul crushing definition, my friends, is akin to Lucy yanking the football from under Charlie Brown’s foot.
As for me, I write every day (or try to). On my days off I am thinking about the plot for my cozy-in-progress or my next blog post. Writing is what I do – what I need to do in order to feel complete in my soul.
Yep. I am a writer.