Woman Enough

Work

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on May 30, 2012

In Washington, people sit around and talk about how the most-often utilized small talk question in D.C. is “What do you do,” and in New York it is “where do you live?” This is something of a defining difference between the two cities, the way we sort ourselves into familiar and meaningful groups. I lived in a “what do you do” culture, defined by my employer, for a long time.

And I don’t anymore.

A big part of my last year has been a commitment to nurturing and developing a passion of mine- to write. This has meant being comfortable living a different sort of financial bracket, which has not been nearly as difficult for me as the awkward moment when someone asks me what I do for work.

I do a lot of things. I work part-time for three different small business, all of which I believe are important to my community, add value to my days, and allow me to contribute financially to this lifestyle project I’ve tackled. They are businesses I support, employers I respect, and places where I have a voice as well as a wage. This spring, I’ve also undertaken the boaty project of refinishing brightwork on a friend’s fancy new wooden sailboat. It’s a far cry from DC paralegal, the job that taught me how to wear high heels and make exceptionally complex tables in Microsoft Word.

But still I reserve a little time each day to meet the written word in my simple, teeny office space. When I examine my day in the evening, before I turn grouchy and demand sleep in a comic overtired stupor, it is the writing I measure.

But when someone asks you what you do, you can’t say “writer” because then the person asking will say “what do you write?” and then you will have to give them a disappointing answer. They want to hear “I write novels,” or “poetry for greeting cards,” or “text on the back of cereal boxes.”

People do not want to hear “I read a lot and then I write a lot. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s stories, or a poem, or a song, and sometimes it’s essays.” If you say “I am at a very early stage of being a writer, so mostly, I am just making sure I write, whatever and whenever I can,” the question-asker thinks “oh, you are a BOGUS writer!” And then I have to hurry to say “Maybe, but really, REALLY I work at a bookstore and an art gallery and a restaurant, and I’ve been breathing varnish fumes all day, too.”

What we are really talking about is money. People want to know what I do for money, which is different from my career.

I work for me in a little office space with a water view. I lose money on it most months, the rent for the space exceeding what I earn stringing words together. But it’s my work, it’s my craft. All the other jobs exist so that I can continue to partition off my mornings to be a writer. To sit in front of the scary blank screen, make my scary blank mind focus on any miniscule thing it can, and write. And if I do it all long enough, I’ll get better. I might not get earn-a-living-wage better, but I’ll get better. That’s my job.

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5 Responses

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  1. Judi E. said, on May 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

    You said it so eloquently…..you’re a writer, Robin. We know it. Keep up the amazing work – and kudos on the article in “Points East” this month. Nice to see your “mugs” staring at us – it was a grand surprise.

    • womanenough said, on June 7, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Thanks, Judi! Glad you saw the article. I forgot when I started pitching an article about my relationship that copies of PE get delivered by the box load to half of my relationship’s place of employ. I have to buy him something delicious with the check for that one, I think!

      • Judi E. said, on June 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

        So, you make him famous !!!! We love sharing dock space with you both. See you later this week – hope your weekend sail is turning out to be terrific.

  2. Brian G. Fay (@brianfay) said, on June 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Our friend Kelly pointed me to your blog and I’m so glad that she did. I’ve just begun the process of putting my stuff out into the world. I’ve been writing (a bit of fiction, mostly poetry, and essays) for a long time. Only now am I feeling up to the next challenge which is to write for the larger world. I’ll stop back here again often.

    And call yourself a writer. The rest of the world be damned.


    http://bgfay750.blogspot.com

    • womanenough said, on June 7, 2012 at 7:53 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Brian! Nice to meet you, and thanks for the encouragement. Good luck with your endeavors!


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