Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Switching Hats

Like most of us on this list, I imagine, I have been writing since I was really little. Poems, stories, and later, novels. I have always been at work on something. This started in third grade and continued not only through high school and college, but also into my working life. I graduated with a degree I would never use and spent my life before the kids came along working at entry level jobs: clerk typist, receptionist, educational aide. I am not knocking these jobs or the people who do them. A lot of these positions require both juggling and mind-reading skills -especially depending on the manager- and I respect everyone who does this type of work.

My goal, though, was to find positions that paid well enough, but that would not accidentally spring-board me into a career. Entry level was my best bet. And I know I chose every job I ever had, even when I went back to the work force when my kids were old enough, for the conservation of mental energy. If I had had a career that demanded 100 percent of my attention 100 percent of the time, I would have nothing left for writing.

And writing has always been the thing for me, something always present, always at the back of my mind. I know you all understand what it's like to have characters living in your brain, to watch snippets of scenes in your mind, or catch a particularly brilliant line of dialogue running through your head. I needed my brain free enough to receive all of those wonderful creative impulses, so I took work that would not interfere with the signal.

Now, however, the old brain (and I do mean one that is aging) is not quite as agile and versatile as it once was. I decided to try something new, went back to school, and now have a part-time position in the health-care field. Although my responsibilities do not entail a person's life or death, they do involve accuracy, precision, and hands-on patient care. In other words, my mind needs to be totally focused on my work. All of the time.

Because of that, I need to shut down the creative signal when I am on the job. This is the first time in my life I have ever done this, and it is playing havoc with my writing when I am at home in front of my keyboard. It's driving me crazy. Switching the writing flow on and off is not easy for me, and when I do a day at work, it is hard to settle back into my story when I have the next day off. And vice versa. I sometimes go into the office with my head crammed full of story details and it is the devil's own work to clear that out so I can pay attention to my professional tasks.

So I am asking, no, begging for help. How do all of you handle this constant switching? If you are not home earning a living through your writing, if you are still holding down a day job, how do you do it? I'd sure love some advice or some tips. In lieu of a split personality, I could use some serious coping skills!

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