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The Secret’s Out

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I respond with, “I’m a writer,” there’s a 99.78 percent chance that the followup question will be, “Like…for what?”

It’s not as easy to explain as you might imagine, because normal people have a hard time believing that actual money changes hands for the kind of work we do around here.

“You write books?”

“No. I…”

“So you work for the newspaper, then.”

“Um, no. It’s more like…”

“Have I ever read anything you’ve written?”

“Probably not. Look…”

“But you’re a writer.”

By this point in the conversation I’m in full-on defensive mode. No, I don’t have a degree in creative writing or journalism or English or anything like that, I explain as patiently as possible. (I actually studied music, of all things – if by “studied” you mean “drank copious amounts of cheap beer and listened to a lot of records.”) And even though I know about verb tenses – there are 12 of them in English, if memory serves – I couldn’t define what “future perfect progressive” means if my life depended on it.

“But wait,” I say. “I’ve published stuff!”

Too late, though. Because that’s when it occurs to my interlocutor that, if this guy can throw a bunch of words together on a page and call himself a writer, what’s stopping me?

Nothing, it turns out. Absolutely nothing.



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