I heard the most absurd thing the other day. I had a neighbor at our door (and then in our living room) that I don’t know very well. She lives much further into the neighborhood, and I’ve seen her at my children’s school, but have really never spoken to her. At any rate, she was standing on my door step selling candy bars for some fundraiser for her daughter.
We got to talking and she asked me where I worked. I told her at home, and when she looked confused, I said, “I’m a writer.” That question typically warrants responses like… “Oh, what do you write?” or “Who do you write for?”. But nope. Not this time.
Her response was direct.
“Wow, you don’t look like a writer.”
I won’t lie, I was slightly taken aback, but then I just smiled and asked her, “Well, what does a writer look like, exactly.”
I probably shouldn’t have responded that way, but when people say stupid things, I can’t help but respond that way. I’m not sure she thought about it before she asked it, but she cleared her throat and had nothing to say after that. She did tell me she was surprised, since my house didn’t look like I worked at home. (Is that a compliment? – Is it because it is clean? Is it because I have four dogs, a cat, four mice that I call my little muses, and now one tiny turtle? What does that mean exactly?)
I work at home. I spend the entire day while my kids are at school on my laptop churning out thousands of words, mostly on the novel I am working on, but occasionally I still do a sprinkling of articles. So what am I supposed to look like?
I purposely use a laptop so it is mobile, and I have been known to take my iPod with me to do some writing when I am in waiting rooms, etc. I actually enjoy writing on my back patio more than anywhere else (with the exception of the occasional park or coffee houses when the mood strikes). My house probably doesn’t look like a “work at home house” since there isn’t a separate office, though I do have a space set up in the back corner of the living room. It houses a small desk I never sit at, with a plastic organizer that holds pens, pencils, highlighters, tape, a stapler, post-its, index cards, notebooks and other misc. writing aids and I have a library of writing books on a book shelf nearby that would put any writing section at the local book store to shame. Let’s not even talk about how many actual reading books are in my house. That’s another post. And if she had bothered to look a little closer, on the left side of the desk (which is not visible from where she was standing), there was a plate with crumbs from a snack I had eaten earlier that I set there as I hadn’t quite made it back to the kitchen yet, and two empty cups that had once held my liquid gold – coffee, which sadly I need to sustain my writing throughout the day. Now that I think about it, I’m glad she couldn’t see that.
So, what exactly did this woman expect to see? How am I supposed to be living a writer’s life? What should I have looked like to her? What was missing?
And now I’m curious… how do you live a writer’s life? (Interpret that theme anyway you wish)