© Gary Bridgman via Creative Commons

For One Week, I Told Everyone Who Asked That I’m A Writer. Here Are The Reactions That I Got

When I was still in college, I had a plethora of part-time jobs that I could schedule around my classes. So when someone asked me what I did for work I’d say I am a part-time ESL tutor, Piano teacher, and nanny. I said that with pride because I loved what I did at that time. My work was reflective of my interests and very fulfilling.

Submitting work to writing contests and lit journals and self-promoting your work is as much a full-time job as any. I work just as much as a writer during my off-hours as I do at my day job. If I were to be honest with people when they ask, I am really first and foremost a writer.  I recently decided that I am tired of telling people the title of my very mundane day job when asked “what do you do”.  Instead I am daring to utter those words coveted by all those with literary aspirations, “I am a writer.” I decided to do this more or less an experiment. Here is what I got.

Day 1: new acquaintance

Mhmmm.

And that’s it, no follow up – basically saying, what? do you think this is 1852?

There is a misconception that artistic careers like writers and artists are on their way out and that the workforce does not have a need for these types of skills. This is quite untrue however. There is less of a need for what is historically meant by writer or artist, but our workforce and types of business evolve and so do the types of jobs we need people to fill in order to sustain these new businesses. There is a great need for graphic designers, content writers, social media managers, product developers, etc. All of these positions require creative thinkers. Creativity, just like any other skill set will always have an outlet in the “real world”. Journalism is a wonderful example of how our industries change. Although we are moving away from print, which was initially terrifying for the journalism world, the internet has been an incredible tool for news and media outlets to gain a bigger reach, thus still creating jobs for journalists. Because of the internet, so many new online media sources have been able to experiment with how we relate to journalism and how it integrates into our lives, which is much easier with smart phones and tablets. Artist are always in demand in one industry or another, but it may not be in the traditional roles that come to mind at first.

Day 2: at a birthday party

Oh wow, so you’re a creative type. That’s … great. 

A lot of people are actually pretty perplexed that the term “writer” is still being tossed around seriously. Many people see it as a hobby rather than an incredibly expansive and liberating career path.

Being a freelance artist can be incredibly challenging because of constantly having to search for your next job, but it can also be very rewarding. What a lot of people don’t consider about artists, is that they have the advantage of never having to settle on just one dream or career. Freelancing gives you more freedom about the course of your professional life. Writers, for instance, can write on an on-going basis for various magazines, perhaps start their own literary magazine, and teach as well. Nothing in life is perfect or seamless, but this is a very realistic picture of the professional opportunities available to writers.

Day 3: friend of my parent’s

 So you want to be a teacher?

Um, I said Writer. But sure, I’d like to incorporate teaching in some regard. My first lesson will be how to keep your assumptions to yourself.

Many writers do want to incorporate teaching into their career goals, but many do not. Writers are aware that there is not a specific job waiting for them that is tailored to exactly what their skills are. Writing is not like getting your CPA and becoming an accountant or going to medical school and becoming a surgeon. People who get their MFAs are not doing it because they see a very specific job in the workforce that an MFA would prepare them for. Writers write because they feel compelled to and because they are interested in some aspect of humanity that they want to explore through writing. Writers are passionate about their ideas and sharing their views of the world with others. So back to teaching, this is not the only professional option for writers.

Day 4: boyfriend’s friend

*Laughs*

I’m going to laugh at you when I can work virtually from anywhere, let’s say, Brussels, and your picking your nose inside your cubical.

Again, writers freelance … a lot. A big part of the writing game is networking and actually learning from fellow writers. If someone thinks you’re joking about going into an artistic field, then they obviously haven’t realized how much creativity effects people’s daily lives. Buildings, parks, language, television, all have creative minds behind them. To some, the idea of pursuing a career of a writer is outdated and setting yourself up for a life of unpaid bills and empty bottles of scotch, but as we’ve discussed, creativity is a revolving door and there are always new opportunities for creative individuals.

Day 5: at the office

I didn’t know you could still go to school for that. Aren’t liberal arts on the way out?

Would you like to live in a world of accountants and investment bankers? Me neither. So I guess the arts will never be “out”.

The written word has been under threat many times throughout history. It seems that every ten years or so, following a new invention that has people obsesses like the i-pod, critics begin to question if this time the novel is finally on its way out. There have been plenty of inventions in the past century that have distracted people but books still find a way of surviving. Also important to remember is that our world revolves around balance: good and bad, hot and cold, left and right. Humans crave an equilibrium and can’t be happy in a world that is all science and numbers and no music and poetry. We need both. So, the need for artists in our society should never be questioned.