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How to Answer “What Do You Do”​ as a Writer?

Instagram: @seasonalfriend

My father was a Major in the Indian Army. As per the provision, you retire either when you turn 60, or when your service touches the milestone of 30 years.

For dad, it was the latter.

He surrendered his life to the Indian Army, and the army took care of most of his professional choices on his behalf.

On uncountable gatherings, if anyone asked what he did, he would say I am in the army with his current rank. It was simple.

He was never pushed for explaining why he picked it as a career. Or whether he was satisfied with a lifestyle that moves him every two years to a new place. Or where does he see himself in the next five years.

Instead, the most common question he faced was, “where are you from?”

However, as the world became more modern, the crowd showed a stronger interest in what we did, than where we were from, or anything else for that matter.

As a writer who grew up moving around a country as diverse as India, I can’t answer either question with a straight face.

  • Where am I from?

  • What do I do?

Do I dodge the question by explaining where my dad was born; a small north Indian village located at the bank of the Ganges.

Do I say I sit quietly in a room and wait for these words to take over me?

On most days, I can manage the first question, but the second one feels more like a choice. I wasn’t born into writing.

I was sober, in all my senses, when I picked writing as my distinctive way of making money.

When I say I am a writer, more enquiries follow. Like what qualifications do I have? Am I a published writer? Is there any work of mine they might have heard of? Do I have a blog?

Depending on how I answer it, I might be given praise or blame for my series of choices.

However, without an answer, I might be considered a dysfunctional part of this economy.

It follows a rather simple narrative. If we do not have a sufficiently satisfying answer to ‘what we do,’ we may not be available to respect from the strangers in the social setups.

In short, we are what our LinkedIn profiles say.

As a writer, it’s my own achievement if I am successful and it’s my own defeat if I am retired in some form of misfortune. No other factors are considered. Like a difficult childhood, or the running incompetence in the family, or mere bad luck.

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t go around asking the specifics of our business card, rather they would inquire about our day or even ask our opinion on love.

But if someone asks us what do we do, as a writer we should always try to pass a smile and say, “I don’t know. Trying to figure out things.”

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