“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of my dentist appointment this afternoon. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, I don’t plan to write about green toothpaste (ick), cracked fillings (booooo) or electric toothbrushes (cool!). Nope, this post is about the dental hygienist who said something that will stay with me for a very long time.
My regular hygienist switched to another office (again, boooo … she’s so sweet and I always genuinely enjoyed our conversations), so it was somebody different today. And, as is usually the case with any meeting like that, one of the first things she asked is what I do for a living. “I write,” I told her, then proceeded to expand about freelancing and trying to get my novels published. Most people have a polite reaction to something like that. I, for one, am always interested in people’s passions and how they’re pursuing them. This woman’s response?
“You know, some people would say that’s not really working.”
To be honest, I just sat there a moment, caught so off-guard by her remark that I was stunned into silence. A wave of surprise rose in my chest and quickly turned choppy. Because, no matter how she meant it – and I’m pretty certain that I interpreted it correctly, judging by the manner in which it was said – it was offensive. It was hurtful. It was insulting. Now, I know this is a stereotype and a pre-conceived notion that many, many writers encounter. Ask an author if someone’s thought something similar about them, and the answer’s likely a resounding y-e-s. But to say it so matter-of-factly to my face? It felt like a slap. I will admit to silently stewing over it for the next half hour, until my dentist came in and immediately asked me how the books are going and whether an agent’s signed me yet. He even remembered which book I’m querying, and was all too eager to hear the details. As I brought him up to speed, our chat so animated that you’d never have guessed it was taking place in a dentist’s office, I had to resist the urge to turn around to the hygienist and say something to the effect of “see, it really is hard work.”
The assumption by some people that writing is as easy as 1-2-3 has never really bothered me. I know how much time, effort, and dedication it takes. You have to love that manuscript like it’s your baby and those characters like they’re your family. Books are not written in days or weeks. They’re brainstormed, outlined, and crafted with care. They’re edited, revised, and edited again. Is being a writer the same as being a teacher, doctor, or CEO of an investment firm? Of course not. Each job has its own guidelines, its own products, its own effects, its own frustrations and its own pure joys. Who are we to imply that one is better than another? That one is more work, more disciplined, just … more?
Driving home, the idea continued to weave its way through my thought-waves. We are lucky, so lucky, to live in a world where we have the freedom to pursue our dreams. To follow our hearts. To listen to that little voice inside our heads that won’t take no for an answer. We are all unique, all diverse, and I truly believe it makes us stronger. Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that we have different talents? Variety is the spice of life, after all.
You know, though, maybe she was right, even if not in the way she intended. Because if we’re lucky enough to find the inspiration that lives within us, to find a job so joyous that it feels like a gift, then maybe it’s not work at all. Maybe it’s just a beautiful work of heart.
Have you ever gotten similar commentary from someone? How did you handle it?