Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies

by Giselle Renarde

Here's the truth: I lie about what I do for a living.

I lie about it all the time. You know what I do, because I'm honest on the internet. I'm an author. I write books.

But if we were acquaintances or you met me at a party (well, first of all we wouldn't meet at a party because I don't go to parties), I'd lie to you outright.

What would I tell you I do for a living? Depends on the day. Depends on the context. Usually I pick a job I held, once upon a time, when I still punched the clock. I've had so many jobs in my life. Holy Moses, so much retail! So much admin work! Warehouse worker, military test subject, farmhand. No, I'm not lying to you. I've done all this. Oh hey, I was a mystery shopper at one point. Totally forgot about that one. I've had jobs I can't even name. I would have to describe them to you. And that would take forever. But it would be really funny.

When random people ask me what I do, I pick the most boring of my many, many past occupations. Why pick the boringest one? So people won't ask any follow-up questions. It works pretty well.

Why don't I just tell people I'm a writer?

Glad you asked.

See, I used to tell people. There's a possibility that, at one time, I was proud of my career. Not that I'm NOT proud now. I love what I do. I'm always telling family members to quit their stressful day jobs and write for a living. (The response is usually, "But you're poor." And my response to THAT is, "Poor, but happy!")

So if I love my job so much, why do I lie about it?

Well... a lot of reasons. Cameron sort of touched on one the other day when he mentioned people's perceptions of erotica authors--that we must want to jump everyone's bones. Let me tell you, there are a LOT of people I don't want to have sex with. Most people, in fact. I don't even want to talk about sex with most people. That's just not how I was raised.

Of course, this assumes the first question someone asks when you tell them you're a writer is, "What do you write?"

But it is, 90% of the time.

What reactions fall into that other 10%?

"Oh, you're a writer? Are you published?"

(Uhhh yeah or this wouldn't be much of a career)

"Oh, you're a writer? Self-published?"

(Love that condescension, buddy. Keep it up)

"Oh, you're a writer? How much money do you make?"

(Not nearly enough)

Or instead of asking any follow-up questions, people just laugh or roll their eyes. Or laugh AND roll their eyes. That's actually my favourite reaction, because then I don't have to talk anymore.

The worst, for me, is when people have endless questions about my work. This might be hard for you to believe, since I bang on about every aspect of my existence here and elsewhere online, but in real life I don't like talking about myself at all.

Being a writer seems interesting. That's why people ask. If I weren't a writer, I'd probably think this was the coolest career EVAH. But I do it every day, so to me it's just a job. Not saying I don't love it. I wouldn't trade this life for anything. But I'm not the kind of author who wants to talk about process. I'd rather just do it.

I talked to my sister about all this stuff a few months ago and she said to me, "If those are all the things you DON'T want people asking when you say you're a writer, how DO you want them to react?"

That's just it: I don't know. I guess I'd want them to be like, "Oh, you're a writer? That's interesting. I have 400 chickens and now I'm going to tell you all their names..."

But that almost never happens.

So I lie.

Although, truth be told, when I tell people I have some boring job, they usual say, "That's weird. You seem like you'd have some kind of creative career... like a writer or something."

Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. Nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, her fiction has appeared in well over 100 short story anthologies, including prestigious collections like Lambda Award winner Take Me There, edited by Tristan Taormino. Giselle's juicy novels include Anonymous, Cherry, Nanny State, and Bali Nights.


  1. My conversations go something like this:

    "What do you write?"


    "What kind of fiction?"

    "Mainly short stories."

    "Like what? What do you write about?"

    "Relationships, mostly."

    This gives them an out at any point along the line. Usually they give up or feel they got enough information in the first two replies. Most people just don't press you any further (unless you're talking to another writer) especially if you're not outgoing with information. Just say enough to satisfy 'em. Unless, of course, you're in a scene where you can be candid. Then you can be proud of what you do so well.

    Or, I tell them I'm an antiques dealer. Which is true. I still dabble in the field. We're not just one thing.

    1. And BTW-

      Happy Thanksgiving from the X household to yours. Even if you don't live in the US, the thought goes out to you as well. Here's hoping we all have something to be thankful for.

    2. My new plan is to tell people I'm independently wealthy. I think people would buy it because I dress so poorly they'd be thinking, "Oh yeah, see those holes in her clothes? She must be rebelling against her massively rich parents." heh problem solved.

    3. Then you'd have hangers-on sucking around, thinking for ways to get on your bandwagon.

    4. They'd soon be all, "This cheap jackass won't even buy me a coffee! I'm out."

  2. I can see your dilemma, Giselle.

    So what's the most boring job you've ever had?

    Mine was doing tech writing for banking software. Hands down. Being a supermarket cashier was MUCH more interesting. And being a waitress was almost like being on stage.

    Of course you could get really creative and talk about jobs you've never had.

    Or you could just tell them it's classified.

    1. Most boring? I've had at least two jobs that were just an endless cycle of faxing, photocopying, and shredding. Although, to be honest, I find shredding paper kind of fun. But it sounds like it would be boring.

    2. I liked shredding paper too! For me it was a rare treat—an oddly therapeutic task I did once a month or so, an oasis of calm in the course of more demanding work. I relished the gentle tug on the paper as it left my hand; the soft, contented crunch of its ingestion; and the linguini-shaped results, crisp but yielding like a pile of raked leaves. As long as the fucker didn't jam—which sooner or later it always did. End of serene interlude!

    3. The military test subject part sounds intriguing. Did it have any potential as a source for stories?

  3. Actually the military test thing was super-boring, but I was in university and it paid $10/hour so score.

    Jeremy, you're hilarious. My home shredder can shred credit cards. It's amazing.

  4. Giselle, I have all the same struggles you describe. I don't like telling people I'm a writer, but since that's basically all I've done all my life I can't exactly do what you do and pick a different job. I tend to try to come up with boring, innocuous descriptions for stuff I've written.

    I feel like people always think it's weird that I'm not trying to get them to look at my books. I've had people get way too interested at inappropriate places, though. Like, dude, you can Google me when you get home. I don't need you scrolling through my website right now and shouting about my masturbation erotica, okay?


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