When you're a creative, there's a fine line between genuine interest and condescension. Maybe I'm biased by thinking this, but among people who make a living doing non-corporate, freelance-based work writers get asked redundant questions the most.
A disclaimer: I know that as a rule writers don't generally make a lot of money. I think one thing people don't get is that many creative professionals have a borderline compulsion to do what they do. This impetus is what pushes creatives to soldier on. Long hours, uncredited work, shady prospective clients and the inevitable slew of redundant questions... it's all worth it and more.
That said, I woke up this morning with a plaguing thought knocking around in my head (it's usually the intensity of a thought or idea that literally wakes me up most mornings). The thought? How to reply to the question, "Are you published" without coming off like a defensive harpy.
I guess my recent inspiration stemmed from this article I'd read last week, titled Forbidden Phrases When a Writer is in Residence or Top 20 Things to NEVER Say to a Writer on the excellent blog The Write Conversation.
In the blog post, author Edie Melson puts this one right at the top. There's a reason for this, folks. I've emulated her eye roll response several times. The problem? I don't always have the luxury of answering this question with an eye roll. Sometimes, the people doing the asking aren't in the same room with me.
On the surface, it's a legitimate question. After all, many people call themselves writers. It's a bullshit filter. I get it. Where it gets tricky is the why. Why is someone asking? Is the person asking genuinely interested in reading your work, showing support as a fan, or hiring you?
That there? That's MY bullshit meter, and a gauge on what response you'll get. To my students (all of whom are not in the same room with me, much less the same country) I tell them "I call myself a writer because I've been published AND paid to to what I do. Besides, I love doing it." 100% true, and something of an over-share.
To those snarky people who just want validation for their contribution to a conversation by being the FIRST PERSON EVER IN HISTORY to ask a writer that question? I reserve my New Yorker-honed sarcasm just for you.
So far, my responses have ranged from:
Are you a publisher / prospective client and interested in hiring me?
Are you genuinely interested in reading my work?
Check out my website and take a look at my portfolio!
To my favorite reply:
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