I've noticed that when people ask what I do for a living, and I say that I'm a full-time writer, they often smile—as though they think I'm joking. Or they take a step back in case I'm crazy. I'm always a little uncomfortable at that point in the conversation because I'm not sure if I should try to convince the person I'm actually doing okay as a writer or just let it go. These people probably knew someone—a cousin or uncle—who tried to write a book once but came into contact with that brick wall so many of us are familiar with. In other words, they gave up before they found success.
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Most of the time, I turn things around and start asking the person questions about her life. However, the discussion often comes back to my writing, with the person saying something like, "No, really, what do you do? Like what's your job?"
And I repeat, "I'm a writer."
Another few seconds of silence before, "What do you write?"
Okay, now we're getting somewhere. "Christian fiction, devotionals, health articles, and etiquette tips."
"Christian fiction, huh?" A puzzled look followed by a polite smile. "What's that?"
"Fiction from a Christian worldview," I reply. When I see that the person still doesn't get it, I explain, "Many of the characters in my books are Christians, but some aren't. I have a lot of the same issues in my stories that you see in general fiction, but the Lord is at the heart of the theme. I also avoid foul language and anything that's sexually explicit."
At this point, the person either nods and asks more questions or backs away and starts nervously glancing over her shoulder. Some folks are uncomfortable when it comes to discussing faith. But I think every subject can make people squirm if they're unsure of it.
As a Christian writer, I try to share some of the many themes we write about: Christ's unconditional love, redemption, and dealing with various types of adversity. I answer questions to the best of my ability, but I often don't know the answers. When this happens, I recommend authors that I think she might like based on her interests. If we're near my stash of books, I'll even give her one of mine.
Sometimes, if I feel that the person is still uncomfortable, I'll tell a joke to lighten things up. Even if it's a lame joke that makes her groan, most people will still smile before backing away and finding a more "normal" person to talk to.
Speaking of jokes, here are a few about writers:
There was once a young man who in his youth professed his desire to become a great writer. When asked to define "great," he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level. Stuff that will make them scream, cry, and howl in pain and anger." He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.
Question: How many writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Recently edited writer: Why does it have to be changed?
Did you hear about the pregnant woman who went into labor and began to yell, "Shouldn't, couldn't, didn't, wouldn't, can't"? She was having contractions.
Have you ever encountered people who doubt your profession? How do you respond? Heard any good writer jokes lately that you'd like to share?