Being between lives

This is the introduction to a series of guest posts about moving from our current day jobs and life situations toward our true vocations and life goals.

Do you have each foot in a different life—or a few different lives?

I do. Feels like I’ve been trying to transition from one life to another for as long as I’ve been alive.

There was a time when I almost crossed over from everyday life to being a full-time writer. My short stories and poetry were published, a play was produced and I wrote two novels (bad ones).

Or maybe that time just looks idyllic in retrospect. I was pretty much a single mom to my son and daughter for ten years since my husband was away on business five days a week. Then I went to graduate school and worked part time as a graphic artist, while still being a mom.

After that, I started teaching college and thought I’d found the perfect career. That’s what so many writers do, isn’t it? Teach class, then close the door and immerse themselves in their real work.

But teaching drove me crazy. I couldn’t write and teach, too. The words of my lectures drowned out the words of my fiction.

So I became an editor on a medical journal. At last, silence!

I could write again, but found myself transitioning to a different kind of writing. I’d always written short stories, but now I was trying to write novels. Real ones.

That’s not easy. Short stories are like paintings, novels are like movies. Hardly the same thing at all. I had a lot to learn.

Years passed. My children grew. I moved from New York to Baltimore to San Jose to the Texas Hill Country. I divorced and found a new relationship. I left my editing job, tried working for a literary agent, then went back to the old job.

All the while, the writing continued, stopped, continued, stopped— I don’t know how many times I quit absolutely, positively for the last time.

Finally, I gave up.

Now, whether I write for a few stolen hours a week while working as an editor, succeed and make a living as a novelist, or have to wait to write full time until I’m old enough to retire, I accept that writing fiction is and always has been the focus of my life.

There’s a kind of peace in that.

Coming in November: writer-psychotherapist-translation manager Louise Behiel and writer-sociology Ph.D. student Lena Corazon.

By S.J. Driscoll

18 thoughts on “Being between lives

  1. I am determined to make bestselling author my third career. Still have to work the day job to pay the mortgage, but working toward that transition to full-time writer. Keep going! Or, as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!”

  2. The good news, Sally is that you’re living and experiencing things. You’re trying things. You know what you like and what you don’t. When you find the groove, it’ll be awesome!

    I’d love to transition to full time writer, but alas I need the steady income from the “day” job. Right now my writing is on the back burner, but it’s still simmering. That’s my good news!

    Novels are just really long short stories, so if you can write a good short, you can write a good long one.

    Hang in there and never give up!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  3. This post really resonates with me. I’ve been struggling a long time with how to fit writing into my life while still being a full time sales manager, and a girlfriend, and a caring sister when life piles too much on. I found comfort in your words about no matter when it happens, writing will always be a part of your life. I feel the same way, but I still appreciate the reminder. I don’t always move as fast as I want to.

    • Hi, Jess–I know what you mean about not moving fast enough. It’s hard to discover our limits in terms of time and energy. I’m still working on fitting everything in. So glad this post resonated with you. Thanks!

  4. I didn’t get the writing bug until I turned 40! So I have a heck of a lot of catching up to do compared to the rest of you. Sometimes I think a break is good. A chance to take some time and put things in perspective. Everyone’s journey is different, and I love hearing about other writers’ journeys, struggles, and accomplishments. I’m looking forward to reading this series. Haven’t started my post yet. Am letting ideas percolate! That seems to be the way I work – slow. Better slow than nothing, right?

    • But, Lynn, you’re insanely creative. And brave, too–how do you have the balls (do ladies have balls? No. Ovaries?) how do you have the ovaries not only to dress up like you do, but make videos of it? What a riot.

  5. Thank you for putting words to the constant struggle. Fiction and I are currently on a break. I feel bad for my characters since they must be wondering why they’ve been frozen for so many years. When I do finally get back to them I will know their words better.

  6. Yep, the writing’s been there all along – in high school, in college… then I stopped for a while as I established myself in a career (graphic design! :D) and worked on getting a life, got married, had a child, went through a career change into software development. The writing came back when my daughter was 4, and hasn’t left since.

    • Hi, Jennette! Yes, I’d noticed you’d been a designer, and always meant to ask you about that. For a long time the other side to my seesaw was design or painting. My BA major was art, I turned down entry into a master’s painting program, then years later got a masters in publications design–but also met the requirements for the creative writing and publishing specialization.
      Do you think that writers trained in art and design approach writing with a different point of view than writers without such a background? I do.

  7. Great post! I really connect with the line “The words of my lectures drowned out the words of my fiction.” For me, the words of my blog are often drowning out my fiction, which is why the fact that I’m in editing mode right now is wonderful. When I start a new project, hmm….

    I have had major shifts in my life, but I agree – writing is the constant underneath it all. And I like the comic, too!

    • Hi, Jennifer! Along the same lines, I don’t see how writers listen to music while they write, especially songs with words. Music like that drowns out my subconscious voice so I can’t hear it. If I listen to anything, it’s white noise, like rain, meant for meditation.

  8. Getting old doesn’t help. Now my mother lives with us. She’s bedfast and lonely. Oh, and my daughter and her children live with us, too. Getting old is not a solution. Boundaries work with kids and spouses. Not so much with those who, like Mom, or my sister, are running along the ragged edge of life. Set the boundaries that you can and accept those areas where you don’t have control. Do your best with what you’ve got. Perfect is never going to happen.
    And if your life were perfect, where in the world would you get ideas and motivation? :)TX

    • Texanne, I’m glad to see you here and hope your situation works out!
      The only benefit to getting older in terms of focusing on writing may be that the time for dabbling is over. Either write, or give up the fantasy and focus on something that you know can become real.
      Or not…
      Artists are gamblers.

    • Great comic. Thanks, Jordan!
      Doesn’t it take ten thousand hours of practice to master a skill like performing on a musical instrument—or writing? Ten thousand hours divided by seven years makes how many hours a week… I never did like division. 🙂

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