I try not to call myself a writer, or a poet, or anything, honestly. I've always had this thought in my head that you can't call yourself a writer until everyone else is like, 'Oh yeah, that guy - that guy is a writer.' But if someone walked up and asked me, 'What are you all about?' and I took it seriously and didn't say something outlandish to cover up my insecurities about what it is that I actually do with my life, I would probably say, 'I like to write.'

This answer doesn't end conversations like I wish it did. I wish that when you said 'I like to write,' the person on the receiving end of your answer would just say, 'That's nice,' and not really mean it and walk away. Instead, they usually say something like, 'Oh, that's great, just great - and what is it that you write?' and I have to reply, 'I write poetry.'

That is a shit answer.

They usually look at you like, 'That is a shit answer.'

But what else am I supposed to say, really? 'I write poetry, some short stories. I might have a novel in me, but I'm not sure.' And it's usually at this point that I wish I had just said 'I play a lot of World of Warcraft and I collect action figures and porcelain cats,' because that's the kind of look you get when you say, 'I write poetry,' anyways.

In a bar at one point I was talking to an old friend who was telling me about this guy he had met, this guy was one of those guys that everyone loved from the moment they met him. He was always really interested in what you had to say, could keep conversations moving with no effort, and was just a genuinely awesome person from what I was told.

I have never been one of those awesome people who everyone loves immediately. I find it difficult to move conversations along sometimes. I choke on words occasionally. I have doubts. Social anxiety isn't far from the truth, I don't think. Anyways, this guy had a trick apparently - maybe he wasn't so genuine after all - but he had this conversation trick where immediately after having met someone, he would say something like, 'What are you working on?'

When my buddy asked me, 'What are you working on?' I was kind of taken aback. I wasn't sure whether he was asking me what I do for money, what I do in my spare time, or what it is that I want to do with my life. He told me that it wasn't as lame as, 'What do you do?' because no one really cares. It's a cop out to ask someone what their job is unless they are one of the lucky ones - or the tragic ones - who identifies themselves by their job title. I AM A FIREMAN.

Okay, that one is pretty dope.

The point of the question is to get someone to say something like, 'I edit this lit mag and try to showcase good poetry and short fiction and meet other writers and people who love what I love.'

At this point, this guy would always have something to say. It doesn't matter what you're into, he would just know something about what you were into and tell you, 'Man that is super cool, because I have a lot of writer friends - can I have your card?' and you'll say, 'Here you go, I have one in my wallet!' and you don't really know why you have cards but apparently it was worth the couple bucks to print them because someone just asked you for one.

And when he'd walk away to say hi to someone else he was going to charm the pants off of, you'd just think, 'That guy was great, just great.'

I want to be that guy. I'm not, though. I like to write. I don't know much else about myself, but I think that that might be enough.



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  2. I like that question too, and have used that approach myself- "what are you working on?"- but it is because it usually yields a more interesting answer compared to asking people what they do in exchange for money to buy goods and services. A job is not what defines us, although it can. I am more interested in what people WANT to do vs. HAVE to do.
    I am socially awkward but one thing I am seeing is that tons of people out there are as well, and people are just people when you get five minutes into it.

  3. Amen Lynnski, that really is your vibe, too. You're 2/3 dreamer, 1/3 pragmatist. Reason #438759 why you are simply...le shiz!

  4. Shannon Peil is an incredibly brave writer. Brave writers are rare and few between. I love that this is tagged under anxiety.