What do you do?

“What do you do?” has long ceased to be an acceptable question in many circles. For those in specific occupations – solicitor, accountant, train driver –  the answer can be straightforward. But for people who are unemployed or at home looking after children, the question can open up painful or defensive spaces. And for the increasing number of people who have a portfolio of activities, a rich mix of different ways of spending their time, it’s a hard question. What we do is no longer quantified only by what we do for money.

Yesterday, at the optician’s, I was asked: “You’re a writer?” I nodded. But is that true? If I had to fill in a form, get a new passport today, what would I say? For many years, I was a literary agent: that was my occupation, and it was straightforward to say so. Since leaving publishing, an appropriate response has become more complex. For a few years, I put “community worker”, then “charity worker”, and for  the past few years “writer”. But is that still the case? It was never the whole answer, and now I’m not sure it’s the answer at all. I’m not currently writing, and much of my energy is going into speaking engagements, running retreats, and activities as part of a community of fools.

What is the foolish response to being asked my occupation? Trainee fool? Being human? And what can I possibly put on a form?

If you were asked today, what would you put?