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What do you do?

We all get asked that. As a writer, I dread it just a little bit, because I don’t have an answer that people know how to immediately process. If I said, “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” or “I’m a nurse,” people know what to do with that. But say, “I’m a writer. I write Harlequin romances,” and it puts a hitch in things, because it wasn’t an expected response, and people don’t know how to process it on the spot.

But there are all sorts of people who contribute to the arts who are either unpaid or paid in fits and starts, and they have a hard time answering that question, too. “I’m a book reviewer,” for example. Or, “I’m a blogger.” The thing is, there isn’t a direct path through the arts. It’s a bit of an adventure, like stumbling through dark woods. Sometimes we end up in a clearing together and we’re very happy to see each other, but no one got there the same way. So people outside of the woods don’t really understand how it all works. All they hear is, “I run in the woods all day,” and they don’t know how to process that.

“Yes, but I mean, what do you do for a living?”

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Photo by Andrew Kudrin

But our passion for books and artistic expression is incredibly important. People take the books on the shelves for granted, and they forget how many people it takes to keep a large cross-section of reading material available. From editors to book reviewers, from writers to marketers and every single reader who picks up a novel… we’re all part of something much bigger than us, something that enriches the lives of countless people.

So this is for all the contributors to the book world and the world of art:  your job is important, and don’t let confused looks convince you otherwise. You might have to be a fellow Wood Dweller to really understand what you bring to the table, and I do. Because while society needs accountants, politicians and brick layers, it also needs artists, writers, photographers, painters, sculptors, reviewers, critics, bloggers and champions of art.

What do we do for a living? We keep life beautiful.

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