While on the phone with my sister the other day, I listed off all the writing-related things I need to get done this month and next.
“So you basically have two full time jobs right now, huh?” was her response.
I laughed. But in reality…yes. Yes I do.
I’ve had two jobs for a while now. I’d say since around 2010, when I joined my critique group and began putting in 15-20 hours a week towards publishing-related efforts. Now that I’m on my way to being published, the responsibilities, deadlines, and time commitments have greatly increased. Additionally, after many years of putting in the time, I’m starting to get paid for my writing work. Writing at this point is most definitely, by anyone’s definition, a job.
Which is pretty cool.
But like many writers, I have another job. The “Day Job”. The one that takes up the vast majority of my time Monday-Friday. I enjoy this job and have no plans to abandon it, even if it was financially feasible to do so (which, for the record, it would not be). However, this does leave me in an odd position. How can a person achieve a work/life balance when their “life” side is taken up by more work?
I wish this blog post could provide an easy answer for anyone reading it, but in reality, there is no simple solution.
The best I can say is what I’ve managed to figure out thus far:
- You need to make time to relax. If you don’t, you end up hurting yourself. (See my first EMU post, where I talk about my 2015 bought of pneumonia.) Identify something that makes you smile and relieves tension, and make sure to include it in your day, every day, as much as you can. Is it a good book? A TV show? Games with friends or family? Long walks with your dog? Whatever it is, don’t let that part of your life go when you get busy. It’s necessary!
- Learn to compartmentalize tasks. You can’t get a revision done when worrying about a grant you’re writing at your day job, and vice versa. This is particularly challenging for me. Shifting my focus takes a lot of effort, and a lot of coffee.
- Forgive yourself for not being able to do it all. You can’t! You’re leading essentially two lives, two careers. Learn to say no and not feel guilty for it. You aren’t turning down work and tasks because you’re lazy. You’re doing so because you’re already booked up. There is a HUGE difference. Donna Janell Bowman had a great post related to this a few weeks ago.
- Be honest with friends and family. There are people you love who, frankly, aren’t going to see you as much as you or they would like. This is the cost of juggling two careers. But if you’re honest, feelings won’t be hurt so much, and those who are close to you should understand how important this all is to you.
I would give further advice, but honestly, I’m still figuring it out myself! Perfecting the work/work/life balance is going to require more experimentation and practice, that’s for sure. Perhaps I’ll report back in a year with an update on this topic. Oh–one final thing that definitely helps is to identify people to lean on for emotional support. For me, that’s my parents, sister, friends, and my amazing critique group. I couldn’t do what I do without them.
Here’s to everyone who is balancing two careers, writing and otherwise. Here’s to everyone who’s balancing writing with raising kids. Here’s to everyone who’s balancing multiple careers AND kids. Let’s face it. We’re all exhausted. It’s okay to talk about that. The more we do, the more solutions we can come up with to better factor in the “life” side of our personal, incredibly busy equations.
Katie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.
Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.
Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.