IT’S A QUESTION I often fear to answer. I’ll be out, in a bar, at a party, wherever, and feel that strangely comfortable awkwardness come over me when I realize I’m about to meet someone for the first time. We’ll exchange names. We’ll play the name game to see if we know so-and-so through so-and-so or if they’ve ever been to this or that place.
And then, they’ll ask the question that’s only applied to me for a little more than a year: “What do you do?”
To me, this is one of the lamest idioms in the English language, as the word ‘do’ seems slightly unequipped to ask what they really mean. For one, people often respond, “I’m an elephant trainer,” or some other declaration of vocationhood–even though they were asked to describe their work as a verb, not a noun. Secondly, what one ‘does’ and what they are passionate about may have nothing to do with their bread-winning occupation.
This is why when someone asks me what I do, I’m sometimes reluctant to say: “I’m a writer.” (Or, more correctly, “I write.”) It’s tough for people who don’t write to understand that being a writer doesn’t mean you need an office. Hell, it doesn’t even mean you have to have published anything.
Instead, I think the Spanish way of asking the Job Question seems much more appropriate:
¿A qué te dedicas?
Or, translated literally in English: To what do you dedicate yourself?
It’s not just about your job. It’s not just about your paycheck. What are you dedicated to?
What do you think about as soon as you wake up? Late at night, when you’re struggling to find that comfortable spot, and your mind wanders, what’s occupying your mental space?
It doesn’t matter what you are–it matters what you do. So it shouldn’t concern you if you’re a writer or not. All that matters is that you write.