When our tour guide for the 5 night/6 day Outback trip stopped the bus and asked everyone to introduce themselves, that’s exactly what I thought.
I was already tense since I spontaneously decided to book the Outback trip one day before it left from Adelaide, South Australia. I was nervous because I was going to be stuck with the same 20 people for 6 days. And I was a bit stressed since I knew I’d have to sleep outside in the Outback during some point of the trip. I’d never gone camping before, so I figured a good starting point would be in the Outback with deadly snakes and all other types of things that can kill you.
“Everyone, say your name, where you’re from, and what you do for work,” said the tour guide.
It was such a complicated request. Why does he need to know all of this stuff about us?
I could give them all a few different answers.
“Hi. My name is Priya, I’m from America and I’ve been traveling around Australia for the past year on the work and holiday visa. I’ve lived and worked in Melbourne for the majority of my time just doing administrative work in a hospital.”
“Hi. My name is Priya, I’m from America and right now I’m not working. Just taking some time to travel.”
But instead I choose to say this:
“Hi. My name is Priya, I’m from America and I’m a writer. Er, when I want to be…”
Gah! Why did I say, “when I want to be…” Now, they’re all going to think I’m lying!
“Is that your full-time job?”
“Er, when it pays…” I said to the tour guide with a little laugh.
Good. That makes it sound like you actually know what you’re doing. Why, yes, I am a starving artist.
The tour guide said he could relate because he used to do photography and it was hard to break into.
Ha! They bought it. They all think I’m a writer – even that German couple who can’t communicate too well in English.
Regardless, I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that no one on the bus was listening to the only person from America speak. And I thought no one was listening until the girl from England came up to me while we made a touristy stop to take pictures and asked, “So, what do you write?”
This is why I hate telling people that I’m a writer. Because they always have be nosy and ask follow up questions – silly, ridiculous questions like “What do you write?” The nerve of some people. As if I’m actually supposed to answer that…
But, seriously, you guys, how do I answer that? Especially when 95% of the time I feel like a phony. Yup, a fake. A two-faced lair.
I make people think that how I spend my time is sitting in an empty room with a typewriter on a desk and writing away until the wee hours of the night with a smile on my face. I make myself think that how I spend my time is sitting in an empty room with a typewriter on a desk and writing away until the wee hours of the night with a smile on my face.
But, in reality, that is not how I spend my time.
Other than the blog posts I write for this blog, I don’t write. Instead, I take jobs that have nothing to do with what I studied in college. Sure, years ago I took on copy-editing/writer jobs but I only did that because someone was paying me.
I don’t write. I binge watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I sign up for a travel writing course and then don’t do the work because they don’t have any deadlines. And I suck at giving myself deadlines or sticking to them if the only person holding me accountable is me (which is why I loved my pushy friendship so much).
I don’t write. I say I write. But I don’t write.
(Side note: how cool would it be to have a typewriter? So. Cool.)
But when I get out there into the world and I meet people and they ask me what I do, I mumble some BS about how I’m trying to break into the freelance writing world (I’ve been saying this for about 5 years). Or how I’m trying to get into travel writing (I’ve been saying that since I took off to Australia and came back).
But, in reality, I’m not doing any of that. I’m just saying stuff to make it seem like I’m doing all of that stuff.
“Um, I write travel stories,” I said to the English girl.
“Oh, then this trip is perfect!”
I’m pretty sure she believed me. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t believe myself.
What was I supposed to say? “I have a blog where I write stuff when I feel like it. Like when I go on a trip and eat all of the things. Or when I stalk Mariah Carey and chase her car. Or when I’m trying to learn how to cook and make canned beans and call it a Mexican feast. But no one pays me for it, I do it out of my own free will. Here’s my card if you know anyone who’d pay a girl to write about that time she accidentally worked in barn.”
I started telling people that I’m a writer while I was in Australia because I figured if I’d tell people that I’m one, then maybe I’d actually become one. You know, like magic. And, perhaps, one day I’d wake up and magically have a book published. Or I’d get an article in The New Yorker. Or I’d actually spend my time sitting in an empty room with a typewriter on a desk and writing away until the wee hours of the night with a smile on my face.
When I told people that I was a writer, sometimes they believed me. They’d nod their heads and give me a “cool” and leave it alone. But other times people ask you follow-up questions and you have to back that statement up.
That’s some scary shit, yo.
I might as well go around telling people that I’m a doctor. Or a lawyer. Or a hairdresser. And everything will be just fine until someone asks you to operate on them. Or represent them in court. Or give them a haircut. Then all of a sudden, your secret is revealed. You’re nothing more than a phony-baloney. Yup, you’re just a two-time-lying-writer-wannabe.
Then you start questioning this whole “writer” thing as a career. Because, I mean, this is 2015. Everyone and their mama wants to be a writer. My next door neighbor. That kid I went to high school with who’s now married with 5 kids. That guy on the street begging people to sign up for that charity to save the planet. The checkout girl at the grocery store. Everyone wants to be a writer, including all of these people who went to the Legends Of The Summer concert at Soldier Field with JAY Z and Justin Timberlake.
With all of these aspiring writers out there, it makes you wonder if anything you have to say has any importance. But then there are those who talk about writing and then there are those who write, crossing out the word “aspiring” in front of writer. There are people out there who get up every morning and do this.
At the end of the day, I am responsible for the words I say out loud and backing up what I say with action. I am responsible for owning up to who it is that I want to be and the things that I want to do with my life. As much as I would like to blame others or my very expensive college education for not being the writer I thought I would be by now, I can’t.
The real reason why I’m not a writer is because I don’t write. And until I make a regular habit of it, maybe I should stop lying to the world around me.
Or maybe I’ll just tell them I’m a doctor. A lot of Indians are. They’ll believe it.