It's a fair question, and one that comes up often in the social world.
As writers, we're forced into an awkward corner when this inevitable moment comes. Some less than stellar snippets from Mindy’s life:
Person: So what do you do?
Me: I'm a writer.
Person: Oh really? What have you written? Anything I'd know?
Me: No, I'm not published yet.
Person: Okay, so you sorta just write on the side.
Me: Uh... yeah, sure.
Person: Well good for you, it's nice to have a goal.
*awkward moment where we each stare at our drinks and then pretend to see someone we know*
Person #2: So what do you do?
Me: I'm a writer *recalls former conversation* And a librarian.
Person #2: I've never been a reader.
*apparently this makes me a person of no consequence whatsoever to them*
Person #3: So what do you do?
Me: I'm a writer and-
Person #3: *clutches me madly* OMG! Me TOO!!! We should totally get together sometime, I'd love to read your stuff, maybe we should meet in a coffeehouse, we can drink coffee and read and write together! That would be soooo much fun. I write erotic gay vampire epic poetry - what do you write?
Me: Uh... I'm working on a non-fiction book about blue whales.
Person #4: So what do you do?
Me: I kill people for money.
Anyway, you get the point, and we've all been there. Telling someone you're a writer means opening yourself up to the inevitable question of whether or not you are published. And somehow, not being published demotes your dream career to a hobby.
Being met with total disinterest is almost preferable to the OMG! response, depending on varying factors. I find myself more verbally capable of handling the non-reader as opposed to the overly-effusive fellow writer, who (in all honesty) may or may not suck. You never know. I could've just dissed the next James Joyce.
How do you answer the question?