DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a writer. When I am asked about my occupation in social settings, I am always hesitant to answer. More often than not, the person is not only curious about the entire publishing process, from idea to print, but they also have a book idea they want to pitch.
For example: “I have a great idea for a book! I just need a writer.” I was even asked once to help someone’s child write a college paper!
I am proud of the work I do, but rarely take on outside projects, and certainly not at a cocktail party. I work with several publishers, and therefore editors, and do not feel inclined to provide, for example, the name/contact information of my editor, nor to answer "how much something like that pays" and "how do I get my stuff published?"
I have a professional website, but some of the topics I write about are controversial, so I hesitate to give out that address outside of a professional setting. It’s getting so that I dread meeting new people, though I actually love socializing! Help!
GENTLE READER: It is an unfortunate truth that every profession has its social impositions. Doctors are asked to give free medical advice, lawyers to dispense legal counsel and performers to perform.
Miss Manners assures you that no one is under obligation to do so, if able to say -- politely, with a slightly tired smile -- “I’m not on duty tonight.”
However, it is a telltale sign of amateurs to volunteer these things for an unwitting (and usually unwanting) audience. So perhaps rather than saying you are a writer, you could say instead, “I write.” This subtle distinction might lead people who do not know you to consider it a hobby and leave you alone. That is, if you are willing to trade tiresome professional requests for amused condescension.