Your Answer To ‘What Do You Do?’

So what do you do? LA folks are infamous for asking the worst question possible at the beginning of an introduction. Even outside that rat race, the question inevitably comes up. I finally found an answer for myself—and it didn’t take much searching to come up with it.

I think too many people are eager to categorize others. I’ve been put in so many boxes—“Oh, you’re writing a film? I thought you were an actor.” Yes, I was an actor—but the only way I was getting to act was to write my own damn material. Which bizarrely led to something-of-a-career in brands and advertising.

This desire to categorize makes sense—our fear-based economy depends on certainty to thrive.

The thing is, you’ve done a LOT of different jobs—perhaps developed a lot of skills without perfecting a single one. What’s the solution? Are we to define ourselves solely by how we make that paycheck? I’d know exactly how to introduce myself:

“Hi, I’m Jesse—I’m a waiter/host/nanny/chauffeur/landscaper/cashier/copywriter/project coordinator/wedding videographer/video editor/cinematographer/producer/musician/singer/composer/tour guide/pianist/transcriptionist/telemarketer/assistant/actor/social media consultant/sandwich artist/photographer/photograph re-toucher/underwear model. Do I have your permission to add you on LinkedIn?”

Good news!

I know an easier way: define who you are now, then spend your time doing that.

Simple, right? Maybe you’re a film writer—you already spend your time doing that. You’ll do it even before you’ve stepped into that amazing/perfect career role. As often as possible. And when you can’t do it, you’ll write about it. And when you can’t write about it, you’ll talk about it. Eventually, you will earn someone’s respect enough to offer to pay you to do that thing. And then, everyone will feel comfortable saying you are exactly what-it-is you’ve been telling them this entire damn time.

So, I am a writer.

I came to terms with that label long before I was handed a dollar for doing it. I am also a filmmaker. And a performer. And a poet. And a piano composer. I don’t force these labels into other people’s mouths—I just embrace them for myself. They’re how I define a large part of the time I spend—in other words, ‘what I do’.

Yes, technically, I do make my living with writing. But, I’ve always been a writer—writing when I was 18 no less than I do today. And yet, others weren’t comfortable putting me in that particular box until I earned a paycheck from it. That’s on them … not me.

Hi. I’m Jesse.

I’m a writer. And that’s a fine label … for now.