Jennifer Hillier

Dream weaver

May 1, 2009 | Uncategorized

I feel stupid when I tell people I’m a writer.

You know when you’re getting to know somebody new?  There are basically TWO standard getting-to-know-you questions that people always ask:

Where are you from?


What do you do?

A typical getting-to-know-you exchange goes pretty much like this:

Stranger:   So where are you from?
Me:  I live in Seattle, but I’m Canadian.
Stranger:  Oh?   What brings you to the States?
Me:  My husband’s job.
Stranger:  What does he do?
Me:  He’s a district sales manager for a health sciences company.
Stranger:  And what do you do?

… And here’s where I choke.

For some reason I can’t just say “I’m a writer” with confidence.  Even though I am.   I’m not a wanna-be. I’m not “aspiring”.  Which, by the way, is a word I completely detest – I write every goddamned day, there’s nothing “aspiring” about it… aspiring to be published, certainly, but I’m not an aspiring writer.  But I digress.  Getting back to the exchange:

Me:   I’m a writer. (Clear throat, avert eyes, swallow painfully.)
Stranger:  Are you published?

… And, of course, the answer is no.

And this is when something happens to the stranger’s eyes.  They either narrow in suspicion, or widen in confusion, but ultimately the person looks at me like I’m full of shit.  He doesn’t say it, but I can hear the voice in his head going, “But how can you say you’re a writer if you’re not published?”

Every single day, it’s a struggle to remind myself that I write because I want to, because it’s something I enjoy, and because it’s something I feel is worthy of my time when I could totally be doing other things.  I want the validation of being published, yes, but the bottom line is, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t enjoy it.  And I do enjoy it.  Seeing a story emerge on a blank page where no words previously existed, creating characters that say and do the most unexpected things… it’s exhilarating.

And pretty much impossible to explain to a stranger who doesn’t believe I do what I say I do because I have no hard copy proof.

I know this is my own neurosis.  I know that.  I just wish, sometimes, that I could answer the question differently.

Stranger:  And what do you do?
Me:  I’m a writer.  I’ve published twenty bestsellers and my latest book was made into a movie starring Angelina Jolie.  I co-wrote the screenplay.   Angie’s a really sweet person.  She doesn’t mind that Brad flirts with me.
Stranger:  Wow!  So this book I’m reading was really written by you?  (Holds up my latest book, in hardcover, no less.)
Me:  Yes.  Would you like me to sign it?  I brought my sparkly pen.


One can dream.