“What do you do?”

“What do you do?”

Isn’t that the question everyone dreads? No? …maybe it’s just me.

I remember feeling worse about this right after I left uni and was drifting around, unemployed, basically freaking out. Luckily, when people asked the dreaded question I was usually able to use rage to deflect, “I’m unemployed! OK?! What of it?! So’s your face!”

Eventually I decided to take my writing seriously, which predominantly involved getting a blog and becoming well and truly obsessed with Twitter. Occasionally, I would work on my fiction and drink wine in front of the computer in my PJs.

I also now work as a freelance content writer.

“A what?” so many people ask.

“A copywriter.”

“Huh?”

“Like I write things for businesses and stuff.”

“Huh?”

“Like I write people’s websites.”

“Huh?”

“You know, like, how on computers there are websites and they have writing on them?”

“Ah… yeah…”

“I write that.”

*blank stare*

I’ve had that exact conversation more times than I can count. Admittedly, I didn’t know what a content writer/copywriter was until I was offered my first freelance job and I’m still not 100% sure, so rather than taking offence I just wring my hands and wonder if I should invent a more commonly known job for when I’m asked my occupation. But what? Obviously the first job that comes to mind is astronaut, but it’s too unbelievable. I don’t like leaving the house, let alone the planet. I could answer nurse or engineer or plumber, but these all require specific education and knowledge that make the lie too risky.

Astronaut Olive

I could also answer more simply, “I’m a writer.”

This, however, has its own inevitable and annoying, seemingly scripted response:

“Oh! Cool. Have you written anything I would have read?”

What am I meant to say to this? “Yes, you know that book Twilight? I wrote that.”

No.

I usually say, “Ah… probably not. I’m working on a novel, I’ve had a couple of short stories published and I write a regular blog.”

And then they ask:

“What’s a blog?”

This is when I stare blankly, because I have no idea. “It’s like… a website… with content that is always changing… and you… like.. write things on it.”

“So it’s an online diary?”

“I spose, but not really. Some people have more diary ones… I mostly just draw pictures of myself as a stuffed olive and write about the last time I embarrassed myself in public.”

This is where the conversation ends. They step slowly backwards and I bow my head in shame.

I wonder if that’s what it feels like to be a proctologist.

Note: Yes, I use the word “like” very frequently in my daily speech. Clueless was one of the most meaningful films of my youth and has a lot to answer for. Sad on so many levels.

Author: Stuffed Olive

My awesomeness intimidates some people, others just point and laugh.

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8 Comments

  1. Clueless was one of the most influential films of my youth too!

    And I suspect most people dread the “what do you do” question. Every time I meet new people outside of Canberra I reply knowing “Public Servant” is not a popular answer and the conversation is probably about to get uncomfortably political (while I am bound to remain politely apolitical).

    Perhaps I should start saying I’m an astronaut too

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  2. Oh, the writer response… and then they say: ‘Oh, I’ll look up your blog and read your stories,’… No they won’t, and they won’t check out your writing or your book…or anything! But next time they meet you they’ll say: ‘Oh, are you still writing, had anything published yet? Oh okay, I’ll take a look at your blog instead…’ and I’ll seethe in the background.
    Great post!

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  3. I also dreaded this question because most of my jobs were pretty much defined as things like “everything else that other people didn’t do”, “bits of project management”, “software design”, “drawing cartoons of sheep”. Eventually I settled on Business and Technical Writer.

    Currently I think I’ve got it down to “I’m an Artist – I take photographs of rocks with a microscope and sell prints on the internet.” Sounds almost respectable, but it’s fortunate people don’t usually ask how much I earn.

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  4. Yes, I can relate to this. When I’m in a couldn’t-be-bothered’ mood, I just say ‘unemployed’. Most people seem to treat this as a synonym for writing anyway: ‘You’re a writer? Good; you’ll be available for such-and-such-an-event-in-the-middle-of-the-day’.

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  5. As someone who gets odd stares every time I say “Creativity Coach”, I understand completely. Since I’m also a writer & artist, I can’t get away from the stares. They haunt me.

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  6. Once, at a party where I only knew the host, I decided to experiment with answering “Taekwondo instructor” instead of “astrophysicist”. It was… interesting. (Also, not a lie at the time.) I could see people judging me differently. Although there was one guy who didn’t believe me and when I finally admitted I was actually studying astrophysics he kept demanding to know why and then tried to explain to me how it must be similar to how he was totally interested in how those lights over there worked though most people wouldn’t care. And he knew exactly how they worked because he was an electrician and hence special. I tried to explain that my physics degree meant I also knew how lights worked, but he didn’t believe me. Eventually the host led him away to annoy someone else instead…

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  7. OK. This is what has to happen: ALL OF US are going to tell everyone that we are astronauts.

    ASTRONAUTS STICK TOGETHER!

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