2 December 2009

What do you do?

What do you do? A simple question with numerous possible answers, and even though it’s meaning is clear it can sometimes catch you on the hop… and it catches me on the hop all the time. That’s because what I actually do for a living and what I want to do, are two different things.

If I had to be honest when answering the question I would probably say something like "I design computer games and then help develop them"… which to some of you may sound interesting and I guess it is. When I was younger, computer games were a passion, now not so much so.

If instead I could lie a little and say what I want to do I’d say… "I am a writer". It is something I enjoy, it is something I'm told I do well (on occasion) and it is something I do have a passion for… and a passion is something that's been missing from my professional life now for quite some time.

But like I said, the question "what do you do?" can indeed sometimes catch you on the hop, especially when you are in a conflicted and contrary position like myself… and that's just what it happened last weekend.

I was at a science fiction convention (yes I know) but I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with a very interesting array of actors and actresses, many of whom I've admired for a long time. At one point I was sitting at a table with the most beautiful and charming Morena Baccarin, star of Firefly/Serenity and more recently the new re-imagined TV series "V".

The conversation was naturally centred around her when she suddenly and quite unexpectedly turned to me and asked "so, what do you do?" with what seemed to be genuine interest… and that is when my brain jammed… the conflict must have been visible on my face for a moment, I'm certain of it.

I have to admit that the honest and truthful answer was not the first one to reach my lips, through my addled brain, yes that's right I lied to Morena Baccarin, right to her (beautiful) face.

I said "I'm a writer" which seemed to pique her interest in the tubby English man with the long (bad) hair. Thankfully another guest at table suddenly engaged her in a different conversation and I escaped the (now I think about it) terrible situation, of either having to come clean, or of compounding my lie with non-existent details of my non-existent works.

But she had planted a seed "What do you do?" she asked… "I'm a writer" I said.

My youngest son said something else yesterday that made me sit up and think too. We were discussing this very topic and he said "You lied to her… you're not a writer, you're a painter"!

Now it is true I have been known to throw some paint in the general direction of a canvas from time to time, but not with any serious intent. So I asked him to clarify and he said "well just look around, you've done loads of paintings… you're a painter".

I must admit, that to an outside observer his point would seem valid. The walls of my home are indeed festooned with my amateur daubings. And I guess to his child's eyes that's all that matters, a visual record of my painting activity. He's seen me painting many times, he's looked at the resulting abominations over and over around our home. So he thinks of me as a painter, regardless of any of my other endeavours, because they are not visible. There is not for example a single published written work in sight, not a single word of prose displayed to prove I have ever put pen to paper.

But then what proof is there that I am or even could one day be considered a writer?

These rambling blogs? One almost (but not quite) finished Doctor Who novella? Several "works in progress" and dozens of "projects" many doomed to never progress beyond their barely started state?

My encounter with Morena Baccarin and the words of my son have spurred me on. I cannot in all honesty call myself a writer until there is some proof of it. Something that could be held up as an example of my efforts. Something to show or discuss.

To be a writer one must write, and so I must write more than I do, I must pursue publication more and I must attain it. I must seek out writing work and take it on. I will sacrifice all of my available time and effort to it.

I must write, and I will write, because the next time I meet Morena Baccarin, I don’t want to lie to her again.

When she says "Oh hi, we've met before haven't we, you're a writer aren’t you".

I want in all honestly to be able to reply…

"Yes Morena… yes I am".