I would love to make a living writing and only writing. Unfortunately in my case, I have to do partake in a number of “side-hustles” to make ends meet- one of those being a driver for a popular ride-share franchise. I encounter an endless stream of people on any given night, all with their own quirks and unique personalities. Most nights can be extremely entertaining, but some nights make me want to tear out the pink and white sticker off of my car windows and throw it down the garbage disposal.
I was heading home for the night after a long stint of driving around drunken Halloween partiers when I got a ride request. I realized I forgot to turn off the app and decided to make this ride my last. When I went to a local bar to pick up the very intoxicated passenger, he smiled and waved me down to where he was standing up against a wall. I sighed a breath of relief, thinking it was going to be a pleasant ride since he seemed to be in good spirits. Man was I dead wrong.
While we were headed to his destination, the man asked the normal questions that passengers usually ask to cut down the awkwardness of being in a small space with a stranger: “Has the night been busy? How long do you usually work on weekends? Do you make good money?” and so on. He then asked the question that I spent the rest of the night wishing he hadn’t.
“Is this your only job or do you have a day job?”
It’s a fairly common question so I walked right into his trap. I answered like I’ve done hundreds of times before: “I write freelance. It’s not very steady work so I drive as well.” He then went on to ask me what I write specifically. Again, I answered pretty passingly, “I write what clients want me to write. I get a topic, research it, and write about it.” It was then that I heard the BIGGEST snicker of my life. This man- no- this stranger, then proceeds to tell me in the most nasally, pretentious voice that he is indeed also a writer. Not a writer like me, but a “real” writer.
He spends the next 15 minutes interrogating me about who my favorite authors are, who do I do work for, what pieces I’m working on- “Not the research stuff, the works you’re passionate about.”
He kept using that word- passionate. After not getting the answers he wanted from me, he released a very disgusted groan and proceeded to apparently school me on “the heart of a writer~”. “A real writer can’t just write to make money, they must write what they’re passionate about! They have to write the stories in their head that keep them up at night. I don’t care about boring articles on lip balm and housing issues in Canada, you should write something that makes your heart flutter!” He even gave me names of famous authors that have inspired him to be the best he can be.
I noticed we were just down the street from his house so I just nodded and stayed quiet with the intention of dropping him off and going home to my cozy bed. But then the rebellious millennial black woman came out in me and I couldn’t just stay still. As we were pulling into his apartment complex, during a break in his drunken rant, I said something that I have replayed in my head continuously since that day, simply because I was so proud of myself for actually saying it.
“I just want to say that I am extremely passionate about my writing. Being able to take a topic I know nothing about, and researching it enough to write about it well enough to get paid for it is rewarding beyond description. Going from completely ignorant in a subject to almost an expert in a week is not something a lot of people can put on their resume. Sure, people who write great fiction or niche content get a lot of recognition for their work in the writing community. But, without the nerds like me who put all kinds of informational content out there on the web, you writers of fiction would still be using encyclopedias to get your work done.”
He looked at me and I could see the gears turning in his head through my rear-view mirror. By this time we were in already parked in front of his building and he mumbled a “Hmph, well have a good night” under his breath and stumbled out of the car. I went home and pulled up the details of that ride through the app on my phone. At that time, I was kicking myself for opening my big mouth and fully expecting to receive a horrible review and rating. To my absolute shock this man gave me a 5-star rating AND a 40 dollar tip. I, this mediocre, insecure, low ranking writer went to bed feeling like a REAL writer. I hate to think I was validated by this uptight jerk, but I, in a round-about way, was. It still makes me smile like an idiot when I think about it.
The moral of this unexpectedly long story is, your passions are YOUR passions. You don’t have to live up the expectations of others, in or outside of your field. I know I’m going to be successful enough at my craft to become established in it, but for now I’m going to keep learning and most importantly- keep writing.