Please Don’t Ask Me What I Do

I hate when I meet people and they ask me what I do. It invariably leads to moments of awkwardness punctuated by strange looks. This is how it generally goes.

“What is it that you do?”

“I write.”

“What do you write?”

“I write novels.”

“What’s your name again?”

“Willie Handler.”

“I’ve never heard of you.”

“That’s because I write under a pen name.”

“What’s your pen name?”

“Paige Turner.”

“Oh. I think I’ve heard of you. What kind of novels do you write?”

“I write humor.”

“Cool. So, say something funny.”

“Look, I don’t write jokes. I write novels.”

“Well maybe if you were funny people would read your humor novels.”

That’s the moment I wish a trap door would open and sweep away the person standing in front of me. There are the people who after being told you are a writer, proceed to tell you that they want to working on a novel. But of course, because if I could write a novel, then anyone can.

Lately, I taken a much different approach. This is how it goes now.

“What is it you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“What do you write?”

“I write obituaries.”


“There’s good money in obituary writing. People are always dying.”

“That’s true. You know my mom checks out the obituaries every day.”

“Exactly. It’s one of the most popular sections in a newspaper. That and the comics.”

“Like how do people find you? I’ve never heard anyone hire an obit writer.”

“I find clients online. I fall under freelance writers.”

“Give me an example of an obit you wrote.”

“David Smith passed away suddenly on February 13, 2019 as the result of a series of tragic events. He lost control of the vehicle he was driving and it went over a cliff on Route 321. He was thrown from the car before the car toppled into the ravine. As he got up off the road, he was struck my a car. He fortunately only a sustained a leg fracture. While being transported by ambulance to the hospital, the back door swung open and along with the stretcher he was strapped to flew out of the ambulance onto the roadway. The stretcher caroomed down the road and finally came to a stop in an open field. A relieved man, he got off the stretcher and hobbled back to the road. Before he was able to reach the road, he was stung by a bee and died of anaphylactic shock.  He is survived by his devoted wife of 25 years and best friend, Judy Robinson, as well as his constant source of pride, his son Lionel Bradley Robinson Smith.”

“That is really good. Have you ever considered writing a novel?”

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