Boundbytheword Blog

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Judgement Day January 6, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 11:43 PM

“So, what do you spend all day doing now?”

I was asked that very recently by an acquaintance. Let me set the record straight here; she knows that I’m a writer, and knows I’ve been working on a novel. Before my defenders rush in and assure me it was all in jealousy, she herself has a career that she purportedly loves, with lovely hard earned letters behind her name affirming her greatness.

Here’s the thing. I’d love to say that this kind of rude question was a first to me, but it wasn’t. In fact, I’ve also been asked (by different judging acquaintances):
“What exactly do you do all day?” and “Don’t you miss working?”

I must have missed something – when did I stop working? I believe I wrote and edited my first novel, started writing my second novel, and have thrown editing services, freelance writing and teaching workshops into the mix. But hey, I don’t sit in a blue cube for eight hours a day with regular trips to gossip at the water cooler, so I guess I’m an unemployed bum, not a writer. It must be the lack of a 9-5 job with a regular pay check that rattles people. But seriously, if it doesn’t offend my husband, my kids or my parents…then what is your problem?

Ugh. What is going on here, and who spit in their bean curds?

To be honest, I always answer that type of ego jarring question the same way – I list my accomplishments to the interrogator like a good little student, making sure to highlight the changes or advances since their last rude grilling. I end up feeling somewhat desperate, sometimes deflated, and always worse for wear.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about my writing. Ask me anything without a hidden agenda and I’ll bend your ear for an hour. People who’ve asked the offending questions do have an agenda though, I’m just not very clear on what it is. Perhaps they’re socially stunted, and don’t know how to ask an engaging question. If that’s the case, this should help:

“What’s your novel about” or “How’s the book coming along?” or “When can I buy your book?” or “What are you writing now?” or “Where can I read your stuff?” = GOOD

“Don’t you get bored at home all day?” = BAD

I’m not clear on their motivation for asking in such an unsporting way, so I don’t really know how to answer. But as of today, I’m done justifying my day’s work to any negative ninny.

If I’d started following my dream when I was in my twenties or thirties and someone pulled out the hater survey like that, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to take it. I would have given up on writing a novel, gone back to something life draining in the blue cubical and remained a slave to making decent money for a second-rate career. One which I hated and left me feeling unsettled and unhappy. It took me until I was turning 40 to be brave enough to move forward and live my dream. So the odd rude comment won’t stop me now. Even so, it’s odd and offensive.

So now that I’ve worked it out in blog therapy (thank you ever so much), I wait with baited breath for the next haughty person to ask me insincerely about what I do.

I have the following responses ready and would love to see your vote on which one is most suitable for one who asks something like: “So, what is it you do all day?”

A – I spend most of the day curled up and crying, waiting for my family to come home and rescue me from myself.

B – Mostly I masturbate. Except when I eat chocolate or do a crossword puzzle.

C – That’s an odd way to ask me about how my book is coming along. That is what you are asking me, right?

What do you think blog readers – A, B, or C? Or send me your own suggestions in the battle against the dark force of negativity!


34 Responses to “Judgement Day”

  1. Harry Says:

    So, what is it that you do all day now that your ….. Just kidding Noelle :o) Keep up the good work, and personally I like B lol …. Happy |New Year to you and your family…. all the best Noelle

    • LOL…thanks Harry – option B is turning out to be the lead contenter, I’m just not sure I could actally get it out of my mouth! Much easier to be brave writing it! Maybe I’ll just say it in my head as I nod and smile.

      Happy New Year to you, Laurie and the family too!

  2. Nadine Lauren Says:

    I’d vote for B as well Noelle but I’d end it with, “and when I’m exhausted from both of those, I’m out living my dream, how about you?”

    Turn the tables and give them an opportunity to feel like they have to justify their reason for breathing. Having spent my career as a 9-5 cubicle rat, you could always through in something like, I hear what you’re doing now isn’t all that is cracked up to be.

    So how’s the book? When can I buy it or when do you start book 3?


    • Love you Didi…I snorted my tea out my nose reading this!

      I need to write a blog about how high I get from the other spectrum – when my supporters give me kudos, three cheers and feedback. You guys always boost my confidence, and keep me heading in the right (write) direction.


  3. Deepam Wadds Says:

    This reminds me of well-meaning people asking me, is there a man in your life? every time I see them. Thanks for asking.
    Of course, you could simply respond with, “I write.” or, my favourite as well, B.

  4. Cryssa Says:

    Hi, Noelle;
    What a great thing to read just before I toddle off to my own (grey) cubicle. I will cast my vote for B! That alone will be sure to render them in shocked silence. You’re not dealing with mean, vicious, people but people, sadly, with little imagination- people who truly can’t understand the fulfilment of producing a beautiful line of writing that reflects perfectly what you wanted to say- and it’s all yours. They need the letters behind their name to be fulfilled and that’s sad.

    • You have my condolences – I spent many years in the cubicle. Good thing you have your writing to keep your spirit soaring!

      I think you nailed it – little imagination. Many people don’t get things out of the norm. Even with so many alternative work arrangements in the work environment these days, some people just feel work is a 9-5 desk job.

      Truth be told, I’d love letters behind my name…Noelle Bickle, AWA (Award Winning Author). Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

  5. Craig Vinson Says:


    I personally would not give a reply to these people,just turn and walk away,don t waste your time and energy worrying what someone else thinks.By doing this, these people are now left wondering,let their time be consumed.

    • Hi Craig! Wow – blast from the past! Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting too!

      You are so right…it does consume time and energy – positive energy that could be used for so many other good things. I like the effect that you created with the walk away scenario – it would SO have them stumbling and wondering!

  6. Lisa Llamrei Says:

    This reminds me very much of the comments people make to adoptive families. Things like “but the blonde one is your own, right?” or “how much did they cost?” – in front of the kids!!

    Believe it or not, most people aren’t intending to be cruel, they just no idea what insensitive jerks they are. In the pre-adoption counselling sessions, we’re taught to rephrase the question such as you did in option C and let the idiots realize how rude they are, while giving them an opportunity to redeem themselves.

    So, the mature thing to do is go with option C. I, however, am a small and petty person who doesn’t care if the callous ***holes feel badly about themselves, so I would definitely go with option B. Unless there are children present, in which case I’d have to force a smile and politely rephrase the question.

    • I can only say – Wha….???

      I would take 50 people asking me my rude question just so you and your kids never have to hear the kind of dumbass stuff you get!!! That is appalling. Seriously – how much did they cost?!?!

      I wish I had your cajones, and could actually lay it out, but I will likely go with option C. Although there is hope for B if they catch me on a bad day…

  7. Dale Long Says:

    Unfortunately, maturity is another one of my weak points, so I opt for option D, Knock ’em down (I was gonna say punch but that seemed too juvenile ;).

    Option D is knock ’em down right? No? Sigh, ok have it your way… I’d say A followed by B and then deliver the final blow with C. Verbal boxing 101. Throw in a neener neener for good measure.

    • A neener neener…lol!

      It is so frustrating to feel the need to justify myself and my time and my choices to people who don’t get it. Then I realized that needing to justify is really my issue, so I’m just not doing it anymore. Done.

      Thank goodness we have such a great writing community that we can turn to for support and validation when we need a pick me up!

  8. OMG!! I laughed and laughed. Man, I would not want to be the next person to ask you this question! Of course, I would never ask you this question. I’d be too jealous you were following your dream to highlight the fact I WASN’T.

    I like any of those answers. But I might answer the “So what is it you do all day?” question with “I move in incremental steps toward creating a life that fulfills and delights me. How about you?”

    • Yes…I was frothing at the mouth a little when I wrote this. I woke today with a new perspective (which is most wonderful about a new day).

      Their issues, my issues, it only gets tangled when we throw them both in the ring. I don’t know why their asking, and really who cares? I am doing what I love, I am lucky to have found such a vibrant and strong community, and I will have no regrets for not “moving in incremental steps toward creating a life that fulfills and delights me”. (only you Sue could put it so eloquently!)


  9. Dave Jones Says:

    Noelle; You’re 40??

    You know me … I vote for B. : )

  10. James Says:

    Hmmm… lots of very funny dialogue on this one.

    I would suggest that a family version of “B” might be:

    “I lube the tractor. Then I milk the cow and make chocolate cow pies. Would you like one?”

    Seriously though, I think that the average adult in our world does not understand the entrepreneurial spirit. They need to be told what to do all day long, have a boss, get a regular paycheque, receive benefits etc.

    How about this as a response:

    “I am an entrepreneur. Most of it involves some aspect of writing. I am so busy earning a living this way and taking care of my family that I hardly have time to work on my novel, which has been a great surprise to me. Would you be willing to take the kids for a few days so I can get caught up on my novel?”

    OK, you can leave the last sentence of!

    This goes back to what I always say about never apologizing, especially in tone, when asked what you do. No downcast eyes, no feet shuffling, no apologizing. We are entrepreneurs.

    • Hi James!

      I need to write those last three lines down and paste them all over my house to remind me every day. Thanks for helping get the roar back into me!

      PS – although I laughed out loud when I read it, but do you really think the family version of “B” is to say you “lube the tractor”? LOL!!!

      • James Says:

        Ever heard of a tractor pull?

        Seriously though, thanks for the nod about never apologizing

      • Isn’t that an event where a bunch of men get together to show off their John Henry? I mean their John Deere?

        Oh my, I think I should stop now…

        PS – great commentary today at the writers breakfast…very funny and as always, engaging!

  11. Rhonda Says:

    Beware: I have a lot to say about this blog today!

    To start with, at the moment, I am sitting in my cubicle reading your blog and people are looking at me strangely because I just laughed out loud randomly… this doesn’t happen often (the laughing out loud), let alone in my cubicle, so it has caused some attention. It was answer B that made me laugh and I would soooo love to be by your side when you used that response one day. It would absolutely be my vote without question. Realistically though, I just can’t see you using it. So as entertained as I was by it, I didn’t really consider it an option.

    Option C: is the polite option as Lisa mentions and in my opinion, I think it kind of let’s the person off the hook. I also think it gives the negative ninny the benefit of the doubt which I don’t think they deserve. I am not convinced that they are asking anything other then what they have asked. I think they are asking if you do nothing but (insert answer B) all day? They assume that you are and resent you for it. Even if you “purportedly love” your career, wouldn’t you rather be doing that?? All of your potential responses send the message that their assumption is wrong, but the third avoids calling them out about their pettiness. I think it let’s them off the hook, it is the safest and sometimes you need to use the safe response depending on who you are dealing with.

    So the Bottom line: I am taking the easy way out and suggesting you reserve all three responses for your arson of verbal weapons, depending on who you are dealing with and how brave/empowered you are feeling that day.

    Still, I have one more thing to say… I knew “that” Noelle from 10-15 years ago and I have to disagree. I don’t think she would have backed down, she had a fire in her and often fought for what she believed in and lived the life she wanted regardless of judgement. You have always been stronger than most and stronger than you give yourself credit for. I believe that you chose to live your dream when you were 40 because that is the process of our evolution… a woman in her 40’s knows what she wants and some go out and get it. The ones that don’t wish they were at home masterbating and eating chocolate.

    • Oh god, how much I have laughed today! I am giddy with the fervour that this posting has envoked with my wonderful readers!

      Thank you first of all – on good days I remember I am strong. On not so good days, it’s wonderful to have friends who will remind you. xo

      PS – LOVE how you saved the best for the last line…so funny.

  12. Norma Bickle Says:

    OOOOH Blimey. I do not want to be around when you find your voice !!!! If you think about it women’s choices have always been subject to criticsm, remember the debates on whether you were “working” when you stayed home with the kids, or the guilt if you went out to work. There is no easy answer, you are smart enough to do what is best for you and your family. Just know whatever choices you make you cannot please all of the people all of the time. The good thing is you don’t need to.

  13. Ingrid Says:

    LOL! Oh, Noelle! You go, girl! Remarks like that mean you’re living the life, doing the job, just as a drawer full of rejections reaffirms your status as a writer. Yup, I’ve run that “Oprah & bonbons” gauntlet so many times it ain’t funny no more. Well, it wasn’t funny the FIRST time round either. In fact, it made me want to “D” right off, as Dale suggested. Unfair, unwarranted judgement from big mouths is frustrating. Yet there’s no real way to describe (or make understood) the creator’s day to those who do not create, who do not stretch themselves in that chosen space, or to those who would like to but never found the cojones to jump off that particular building (filled with blue cubicles, eew).

    In the end, my friend, you must simply row your own boat while smiling and waving buh-bye to the dorks on the shore pissing into your river. Oh, and tell them “B”. I like that one. I live by that one, or at least part of it…she said, as she jammed her mouth with another handful of dark-chocolate-covered almonds while typing with her free hand. 😀

    p.s. I jotted down something in a similar vein (though not nearly as amusing) in my online Notebook in October, under the heading “What Kind…?” Gosh, I shoulda just said “B”. 😉

    • Thank you Ingrid for giving me a line I am just dying to use…”simply row your own boat while smiling and waving buh-bye to the dorks on the shore pissing into your river”.
      Oh god, I hope I have the opportunity to say that to someone soon before it leaves my brain.

      Thanks too for giving me a boost. The Writers Community of Durham Region and the members who are so generous in spirit are so good for my well-being.

  14. Leanne Kehoe (Erwin) Says:

    I am also one of those rats chasing the piece of cheese in the maze to lure me in a certain direction. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do.
    Im glad you had the courage to follow your dreams and not get caught up in the rat race! You are an inspiration to alot of people. Hopefully they will read your blog and realize it! You have me sold on BBBBBBBB………lol

    • Thanks Leanne! I chased that cheese for 20 years, and I didn’t love what I did, not at all, so you are in good form if you love what you do!

      Great to hear from you, and thanks so much for reading my blog – I appreciate your support! All the best to you in 2011, and I hope to hear from you again. I love comments…keeps the conversation going, and you probably remember how I like that…lol!

  15. Nicole Says:

    Definitely go with Answer B! That will stop them dead in their tracks!

    What an awesome post Noelle – you have managed to get your point across, convey a sense of frustration, all while using good grammar and a sense of humour. It’s almost as if you were a writer or something! LOL!


  16. I could absolutely hear you in my head delivering that “B” answer!! Outrageous.

    So.. it’s been 15 years. I’m a professional Life/Career/Workplace Coach now. I believe solidly and profoundly in “Living the Dream”. My whole deal is helping people create whatever their personal vision is.

    Few people seem to be so lucky as to find the path to creating ideal reality for themselves. It’s so simple too.

    Tell them you’re Living the Dream and laugh that laugh of yours.


    • Thanks Jen!

      I couldn’t think of a more wonderful person to coach people on achieving their dreams! That is wonderful to hear, and I’m so glad you got in touch. 15 years does fly by doesn’t it? Amazing.

      Thanks for reading my blog, and extra thanks for the comment! It always makes my day. Hope to see you on here again!


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