Presupposition and the Stay-at-Home Writer by Avantika
Just last month, I had a visit from a family friend. She is not someone I particularly respect nor is she someone admire; however, she wanted to know about my writing career. I tried to tell her about it. But the conversation didn’t go well. The presuppositions she made about my life made me boil at the time. I’ve recounted the conversation below. I wonder what your reaction will be. . .
Ignorant Person: Avantika, can I ask you something personal?
Ignorant Person: Oh, it’s nothing bad. You don’t need to sound so defensive. I’m not a writer so I’m not going to know. I just want to learn what it’s like for you.
Avantika: I’m not defensive. I’m just … You know, let’s not go there. What is it you want to know?
Ignorant Person: But, you mustn’t get angry, OK? It’s not something bad, I promise you.
Avantika: O.K. But can you just ask me the question?
Ignorant Person: O.K. I want to know something about you. I want to know … you know … how things are?
Avantika: What do you mean how things are? I don’t understand you. And why are you moving your arms all over. Explain.
Ignorant Person: Aiyo, can’t you understand or what?
Avantika: Understand what? You’re not asking me what you want to know. Say it. I think I know what you’re trying to ask, but I want to make sure it’s the right thing. Don’t worry. I won’t get angry. Just say the words.
Ignorant Person: O.K., since you insist, I’ll ask you directly. How do you live? Where do you get your money from? I heard that writers never really make any money.
Avantika: Yes, that’s what I thought you were asking. Well, I’ll explain to you. A lot of my work until now has been fiction. Fiction rarely brings in money unless you’re a famous, well-established writer. Non-fiction work, like fiction work, does bring in money but it’s hard to get into the market.
Ignorant Person: Hmmm…
Avantika: Like everything else, writing takes time. You need to work at it before you can reap the rewards. Just like when you set up your restaurant business. Weren’t the first two years hard work?
Ignorant Person: Yes. But this is Malaysia. Everybody likes to eat.
Ignorant Person: I mean, people will always want to eat. Not like writers. They take so long to write even one book and then, what? What are you going to write about? Also, the money is not steady income. You have no EPF, no pension. Nothing.
Avantika: You think I’ll run out of things to write about?
Ignorant Person: Yes. You’ve written this book and your stories. But, what else can you write about? Your book is all about what’s happening today in the world? People have already written about the past. And no one knows about the future? So, what’s left?
Avantika: You know, I don’t even know how to answer you right now.
Ignorant Person: You see, you can’t even defend yourself properly. And you call yourself a writer. Don’t frown like that. I don’t know why you had to give up that well-paying job in the first place? Now, you’re really struggling and you won’t even admit it.
Avantika: I think you’ve said enough. I’m not going to listen to any more of this.
Ignorant Person: Just as I thought. You have no money. If you did, you would tell me now not to worry.
Avantika: I’m not saying anything because I’ve realised that even if I explain it 100 times to you, you’ll never have any clue what I do. In your mind, all writers are poor and that’s it. Even if I begin to explain that, with time, you can become an editor, a proof-reader and earn far more than I ever could working for someone else, you’ll never understand. So, why bother.
Ignorant Person: Even if you are earning money, I think you’re really lonely and you should get out more. You never see anyone. You’re becoming a recluse. At least in the office, you could see other people around you.
Avantika: A recluse? You actually think that when I sat in an office, surrounded by people, I was happy? You have no idea what it’s like. I’m only going to say this to you once. I don’t know whether you’ll understand, but I’ll say it anyway. You’ve presupposed that my life is really dull, boring and I am, somehow, in need of company. Well, I was lonelier when I was at work full-time. I went to work at 8 in the morning and was forced to work non-stop. I saw people throughout the day but never really communicated with another person. Now, when I talk with someone, even if it’s for 5 minutes, that’s enough. That meaningful conversation will take me through the day. I love writing. I can pour my heart into it and I answer to myself. Not a boss. Not a manager. Not another person. It takes a lot of discipline to do what I’m doing. But you’ll never see it because in your eyes, since I’m not working in an office, I’m not doing work. Understand?
Ignorant Person: Hmmm … I can’t talk to you. You’ll never listen.
Avantika: You know what? We’re done. You live your life and I’ll live mine. Don’t ask me about my writing career again. Deal?
Ignorant Person: Deal.