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Why do people laugh if you say you want to write?


I love…like L-O-V-E all things books, writing and word related. Books = slight (yes, slight) obsession  (regardless of what the family say – I think it’s perfectly acceptable for an adult to have a full-scale toddler-style meltdown because they only have 50 unread books left in the house, so…). But you know what I mean, when you tell people you want to write  – ideally for a living – you’re not taken seriously.

There’s a social gathering, and after the initial round of faux-polite introductions someone starts the whole what do you do thing. And it’s fine for the first couple of people: “I’m an accountant” someone says. Everyone smiles and nods politely there’s a ‘witty’ joke about taxes. “I’m a teacher” someone says. Everyone smiles and nods politely and another ‘witty’ joke about never working with children/animals, and then you say some variation of “I’m an aspiring writer”…and the others exchange sideways glances.
A deathly silence fills the room.
A huge ball of tumbleweed rolls through.
And then the questions begin (and by the way, your aspirations aren’t cool enough for you to get a witty joke)

It’s something like this:

Write? You mean you just want to sit at home all day in your PJ’s doing nothing? Is that what I said? No, I’d be sitting at home all day writing epic things that’d make J.K Rowling jealous. And BTW, no one should need an excuse to sit at home all day in their PJ’s.

And then what?
And then do it again the next day.

But, writing…not really a job is it?  Doing something in exchange for money isn’t a job? By definition, when you do something in exchange for money – it’s a job (unless the rules have changed).

What I meant is…it’s not a real job is it, why don’t you um, aspire to do a real job? It turns out to do a real job, you have to get up at a piss-poor time in the morning, and commute with your face pressed deep into someone’s smelly armpit on a sickly hot bus or train, and you’re just stood there thinking is the money I would make if I were successful somehow not real? Do writers get paid in Monopoly money?

You want to be one of those people who just sit in coffee shops most days? I’m already one of those people that sits in coffee shops most, okay all day – I’m on first name terms with the barista’s. Isn’t that a pre-requisite for wanting to write? Getting your caffeine intake up to a healthy level? Its common knowledge that bona fide writers convene in coffee houses, and if I ever join their ranks I will be there too, merrily typing away on my laptop, sipping an extra-shot-extra-hot-extra-wet-extra-cream-light soy-cinnamon-vanilla-caramel-latte. Just kidding.
There’d be no vanilla in my latte.

You’re too normal to be a writer! Oh C’mon, give me a chance we just met! But seriously stereotypical that if you want to write you are emotionally damaged in some way. I’m perfectly “normal” (quirky and eccentric as hell, but still normal). I don’t have a void within my soul having experienced some kind of tragic loss, I didn’t have a weird childhood (at least I don’t think so…), I’m not dying inside, I just like writing. When I do write it’s not in a coffee shop, or some dark and dinghy basement littered with cigarette butts and empty vodka bottles. It’s at a desk, or sometimes outside (but that’s rare – I live in London, and therefore have a personal rain-cloud assigned to me for when I decide to set foot outside, and I have it on good authority/personal experience that laptops don’t appreciate getting wet). But that’s another story.

Oh OK. Well now I’m not going to say anything else about myself – so I don’t end up in one of your stories! Because you assume your life is just that interesting that I’d want to write about it? Not being rude. It’s just a smidge presumptuous.

Oh OK. So…can I be in one of your stories?

Thing is…when you tell people you’re a journalist, no one really cares! They smile and ask polite questions, but isn’t it essentially the same thing? Writers can be journalists, but Journalists are writers! They may not be writers of fiction, but dammit, journalism is a job that involves researching things, events, people etc…and writing about them. Writing involves researching things, events, people etc…and writing about them. It’s frustrating that people think that writing as a job, isn’t a job. Because you don’t work in a corporate environment it somehow doesn’t count. Forget the fact that you’d be self-sufficient, and you pay your own bills, while doing something that you’re passionate about. It’s just a hobby. Until someone needs a cover letter. Or a CV. Or help writing an email, or a post for their blog. Or a blurb. Or even a greeting card sentiment for their significant other, and they can’t think of anything to write…


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