For years now I’ve skirted the question of my desired profession, usually answering a question with a question: What don’t I do? Changing the subject: I think there’s too much money in politics! Or a good old-fashion diversion: Look! Flying squirrel!
Admitting to being an aspiring writer evokes two reactions: high expectations, which are the worst, or low expectations — aka, pity, which is a tad more comfortable, like a pair of nubby slippers you just can’t pitch, even though the flies have begun to circle.
High expectations reaction:
Q: Are you published yet?
A: Querying trenches.
Q: What’s querying?
A: A process that requires every writer to lose faith in their writing and drink lots of wine until they can’t remember the failure of yesterday. Repeat for many months or even years.
Interruption: You know, I always wanted to write a book. I think I could.
A: Hold on. Deja vu….. Okay, it passed.
Q: What’s your process?
A: Have you ever seen sausage being made?
Q: Does it have vampires in it?
A: No, but if a movie version came out, Robert Pattinson would totally play the male lead and I would insist he audition to me in private.
Q: Wow, you’ll be famous, right?
A: Yeah, you know you really should write that book of yours. Only then will you know the lavish world that awaits you with this easy, breezy pursuit.
Low expectations reaction:
Q: Really? Writing? You’re serious?
*Pity head shake* Translation: Get a real job already.
Q: You know what you’re up against?
A: Oh, you mean that there’s a greater chance of rockets shooting out of my arse? Then yes.
But if I don’t say writer, I get stuck with the stay-at-home-mom label, which is like a bat signal for the PTA. The next thing you know, you’ll be thrown into a mosh pit of bake sales, class moms, holiday festivities, garden clubs, crappy jewelry exchanges, sex toy parties, fundraisers, etc. One day it’s, “Sure, I’ll help out.” And the next, you’re roadside, staking the ground with 125 road signs to “Pass the School Budget!” with cookie dough stuck in your hair and play doh under your nails. No thank you. I’m a grizzled mother of three, my oldest is entering high school, and my helicopter crash-landed years ago. Go find a fresher, younger face with her blades still sputtering. You can’t miss her. Her oldest will be five and she’ll look like she walked off the set of Zombieland, still insisting on her I-haven’t-given-up-my-style high heel shoes.
So I did something very strange recently. I was in a cab near a college campus and when the driver asked if I was a student, I nodded yes. Anything to avoid my aspirations. Now, I’m sure he was suspicious of this extremely senior student old enough to be on her 10th college degree, but maybe he was just happy I didn’t puke in the backseat after the words: college and student. However, I’m a fairly bad liar. I should have said plumber or drag queen or something that wouldn’t have follow-up questions, like, “Really? What’s your major?”
“Creative writing.” Oh crap. Did I just say that? I just turned the steering wheel 360 degrees! I should never be a taxi driver.
“Really! Are you gonna write a book one day?”
Double crap. “Yeah. I might give it a go. Why the hell not.”
I see his face grinning in the rearview mirror. “You know,” he says. “I really want to write a book one day.”
“No kidding?” I say. “You should totally do that.”
So next time, I’m going to muster up the courage to say stripper. I doubt this will ignite further conversation. If it does, I’m in deep waters. But at least I’ll walk away with a good story…or an extremely embarrassing YouTube video. In the meantime, I’ve started my second novel. It’s like childbirth, I forgot the agony of the first and I’m already half pregnant.