Author Allison Winn Scott wrote a piece for Psychology Today that made me realize that I am not alone. In imagining a future in which she is no longer an author, she writes:
I could no longer say that "I'm a writer," and then when they inquired further (because often times, no one really believes you when you tell them that you're a writer, as if this is code for sitting around watching cat videos on YouTube), I could then say that my fourth novel was just published and see them nod their heads approvingly.
I can’t tell you how relieved I felt reading this paragraph. Like Winn Scott, I experience the same sort of doubt and skepticism from many of the people I meet, and perhaps to an even greater degree.
When asked what I do for a living, I say, “I’m a teacher and a writer,” purposely leaving out my other careers so as to not confuse matters. After debating the correct response to this question for many years, I’ve decided that condensation and brevity trump any effort to be thorough.
My response is normally followed by an inquiry into what and where I teach, and once that information has been provided, I am then asked, often with great trepidation, “So what do you write?”
I reply that I am a novelist, and after answering the inevitable and impossible questions about genre, I am then asked a series of questions which typically include:
Have you published anything yet?
Oh, did you self-publish?
Are they e-books or real books?
Do you have a website where people buy your books?
Oh, in actual bookstores? Like a Barnes and Noble? Really?
Can I find them on a shelf, or would the bookstore have to order it first?
Oh, you’ve published more than one book?
Doubleday? Really? And St. Martin’s?
You mean the Doubleday?
So you’re like a real author then? Huh?
Oddly enough, my wife often experiences the same kind of interrogation when she tells people that her husband is a writer, though her questions are also accompanied by a hint of sympathy and consolation as well.
While I’m happy to expound upon my career, these questions never feel good.
Lately, I’ve been trying to add, as quickly as possible without sounding like an arrogant jerk, that my upcoming book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, is being published in more than 20 different languages and counting. This seems to be the only thing I can say that brings the interrogation to an immediate halt and convinces people that I am an actual author with actual books that can be purchased in actual bookstores.
I’m not sure why there is so much skepticism when it comes to the validity of an author’s career, but I was pleased to discover that the furrowed brows, inquisitive stares, and probing questions are not only directed at me.
If Allison Winn Scott is also receiving them on a regular basis, I am at least in good company.