Writing Assignment: Write A Response To “What Do You Do?”

by Randy Murray on December 28, 2012

Hi. I’m pleased to meet you. What do you do?

That simple and ordinary social pleasantry is often a difficult question to answer. What do you do, exactly?

I do a lot of things, but that’s not what this poorly worded question is really asking. The typical questioner is probably asking, “what kind of work do you do for a living.” For many it’s a simple pleasantry, a tossed off question—but how you respond can open a conversation or direct it in a specific direction.

Your job and your interests may vary greatly. You may not have or need a paying job. Or you, like me, may do a wide range of things.

What do I do? I’m a writer. But that reply says who I am, not what I do. To be more specific, I write. To answer the unasked question of “What do you do for a living?” I typically say, “I do freelance business writing.”

That’s only a fraction of what I do, but in most situations it’s all that a stranger wants or needs to know. I could say, “I’m a playwright,” or “I’m a father of two adult daughters,” or “I’m a home theater enthusiast.” But these are also statements about who I am, not what I do. It’s hard to directly state what one does.

If I sense that this would be interesting for the person to know, I might tell them more, or better yet, redirect the conversation to learn more about the person who just asked me that question with a more comprehensive question of my own. I can ask, “Tell me about yourself. What are you interested in?”

That’s why you need to be prepared. You can and should plan your response. And that’s what makes this an excellent Writing Assignment.

For today’s writing assignment, write a response to “What do you do?”

Start by writing a long a detailed list of everything that you do, including what you do for a job, if you have one, and all of the other activities that you engage in (by choice or necessity). This may be a very different list from the things that you are interested in doing.

Once you’ve completed your long list try and condense all of this into a single statement, or better yet, focus on creating a single statement that doesn’t detail everything that you do, but that answers enough of the question and let’s you redirect the conversation.

If you approach this assignment with an open mind and do the work diligently you might be surprised to discover what you actually do.

For bonus points, Tweet your completed statement and copy me @cptnrandy.


Click here to view and complete previous writing assignments.

And buy a copy of the Writing Assignments book!

The Writing Assignment: Write A Response To “What Do You Do?” by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: