I was complimented to learn the other day that my friend who is a therapist uses me as an example with her patients sometimes. (Go ahead, have a laugh; I agree with you.) As it turns out, several times over the last year, she’s heard the lament from clients that they really want to be a writer, but being a writer just isn’t something one can do for a living.
Au contraire, she has told them. One can, because she knows one. While this is nice for
my ego, as well as hilarious to think I, who could probably benefit from a live-in therapist, could be such an example, it also kind of ticks me off.
Do you know how people react when you tell them you’re a writer? They tilt their head to the side, much like a curious puppy, and say, “Oh…that’s…that’s nice. What…ah, what do you write?”
Every time. It’s like no one can believe that such a statement could be true. I get a little testy that I have to constantly list my employers and publications in order to return people to a state of normalcy. The same is true for my fiance, who after eight years of teaching high school is leaving to be a full-time musician. Try telling that to a passerby. It usually gets an eyebrow furrow added to the head rotation. It drives me nuts.
How can it be so unbelievable to be a writer or a musician? They are two of the oldest professions still in existence – save, say, prostitution. Writers and musicians were doing their thing centuries – millennia, even – before people were radiologists or computer programmers or graphic designers. And yet we have no problem imagining people in those roles. Somehow, in a world of words and music, it is surprising to nearly all people that someone creates them.
The solution to this frustration? Surround yourself with like minds. Nothing is more refreshing to me than when Mike and I spend time with some of his musician friends or sharing coffee and workspace with another writer for the afternoon. One of the most cathartic experiences I had working was writing a story for Concentrate on creative professionals in the Ann Arbor area who quit their jobs to make careers of their own. They were all as inspiring as the were validating.
Making your own job isn’t weird. If you really think about it, whether it’s writing or music or event planning, if you’re good at what you do, it’s actually kind of weird to let somebody else make your job for you.