What does a writer look like?

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Can you spot the writer in this picture? What about the mommy?

Someone recently asked me what I do for a living. I think she expected me to say that I’m a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM). She often sees me with both my kids in tow, and we’d never had any opportunity to have a conversation about anything other than our kids. When I said, “I’m a writer,” the person looked surprised. Apparently I did not fit her preconceived notion of what a writer looks like or acts like.

At the time, I was wearing sweaty gym clothes and no makeup and trying to wrangle my active three-year-old son (see above in the furry monster costume). I was also carrying my son’s backpack o’ snacks (a wise parent never leaves home without lots and lots and LOTS of snacks; if you think you’ve got enough, toss some more in). Oh yes, and I’m sure I was wearing my current favorite gym shoes: bright purple sneakers with hot pink laces. I can see why my appearance didn’t match any of the ideas that many people have of writers. Heck, I don’t even drink coffee. (I know! Maybe someone should take my writer badge away from me.)  

The funny thing, at least to me, is that I probably do fit the mold of many a mommy blogger. Yoga pants, check. Sneakers, check. North Face jacket, check. Various flotsam and jetsam from adored but messy offspring, check check and check. I even have a mommy blog, since I love to tell a good story about my charming and delicious children who never ever misbehave in Target or fight over whether to watch “Dinosaur Train” or “Phineas and Ferb” or bite each other or screech so loudly that I nearly drive the car off the road.

But a writer, a real writer who writes about stuff other than her kids? Hmm. I don’t know. 

Then again, I don’t know many writers who sit around in their offices, dressed to the nines. We’re often a frumpy bunch. I mean, I started out my professional career in a newsroom. As long as you weren’t wearing pajamas, you were doing pretty well.  I tended to save my “nice” clothes for days when I had to attend meetings in hospital board rooms or conduct interviews in doctors’ offices. If I knew I was just going to be in the office on the phone, why bother with the good stuff? Who was going to benefit from my attempt to wear pantyhose? And trust me, I was not the only one with this approach. I had coworkers who (I suspected) wore the same pair of pants several days in a row. Or kept a rumpled tie in the trunk of their car, just in case. 

Today, the lines of citizen journalists and professional journalists have blurred. The perky mommy blogger in leggings and sneaks may also be a veteran reporter for a well-respected magazine. Or the seasoned newspaper columnist may have a cult following on Twitter, where he posts mostly about the Red Sox and recipes that incorporate tequila. You can’t really tell by looking at someone if they fit the profile because there doesn’t really seem to be a profile anymore. They probably all sit in front of their computers with messy hair and a coffee-stained shirt a good deal of the time. 

So, that’s where I am. Earlier today, I interviewed a health care executive from my home office, wearing, yes, yoga pants and a hoodie. Then I pounded out a lengthy article about a particular trend in the arena of federally-qualified community health centers. As long as you’re good at what you do, who cares if you look like what you are?  As long as you’re good at what you are, that’s what matters. 

 

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About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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