Writing Professionally — Does it mean living a double life?

I enjoy spy fiction. I’ve become a huge fan of the Chuck series, and I’ve always had a thing for superheroes…not necessarily for their powers (although those are certainly fun) but because of the challenges they face in leading two lives. I find the conflict between having an alter ego and an “official” life to be really interesting. It’s isolating for the individual, yet necessary for the protection of the people loved by the hero. That isolation in turn leads the hero into sometimes questioning their own role, and purpose. I love that. It’s very Shakespearian, isn’t it? It’s the essence of asking the question, “Who am I, and why am I here again?”.

I write under a pseudonym at the moment, for two main reasons: I want to separate my two professions for a little while, and I think it’s kind of romantic. I’m a sap, what can I say… I cry at the end of Disney movies. Hell, I cried all the way through Bridesmaids, caught up in the emotions of the protagonist’s struggles. In my “official” life as a teacher and a parent, I have a lot going on as we all do, but as my alter ego Tori, I can let some of that go. Or try to, at least. Thinking as Tori, I am able to separate a little while from the mundane and really sink into the fictional world I am creating. It’s a secret pleasure.

But it’s also a problem.

When you have an alter ego, as discovered by Chuck, Peter Parker, Superman, etc., it can get exhausting at times to keep up. I am no superhero (as much as I’d like to pretend), and I’m not even a supermom. I know some supermoms, and in comparison, I muddle along much as my own mother did, but my children are happy and healthy and well-behaved (most of the time…especially around relatives and babysitters and in public), so I guess I’m doing something right.

But I digress.

How do you find balance when you are living two lives? As you can see, I find it difficult or impossible to completely separate my “official” self from the writer, but I don’t think it’s necessary to invent a wholly different persona. I have considered it. But my children, my partner, my regular job, these are all part of who I am. Where I run into difficulty is making time or room for the writer, in the daily patterns of being a mom and a wife. My alter ego, Tori, craves time to dive into the fictional world. I know that one of the markers of a professional writer, is someone who write for a set time every day. I started the summer with a vision of writing for a few hours every afternoon, in my backyard (weather permitting), but so far, I’ve only managed to do this twice. The priorities of parenting, cleaning, and spending time with my other half must be met as well. So by rights, I should not yet call myself a professional writer.

How does someone live two lives, and find time to sleep? What does a professional writer who works from home do when the five year old refuses to be put off, the laundry piles, and the dog needs a walk? My spouse is very supportive and understanding, but he cannot do everything, nor do I expect him to. He gives me time when I need it, but he can’t cover for me every day. The mom needs sleep, but the writer wants to write!

So if you have an alter ego, I’d like to know – how do you separate and yet maintain a balance? Do you mark a time schedule on the fridge and stick to it? Do you have a room in the house where you can lock the door? What do you do when, in your set writing time, someone small will not leave you alone? I guess the easy answer is to stop and come back to it later…but in my case, often that ‘later’ doesn’t come.

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2 thoughts on “Writing Professionally — Does it mean living a double life?

  1. B.J. Baye says:

    I can’t say as far as personal experience goes, since I don’t have much of a life like you do, but I’ve read that some writer parents need to go so far as to wake up two hours before the rest of the family to sneak in some writing. Hopefully you find a better option than that. 🙂

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    • I know…I’ve been trying to get up earlier, but I cannot beat the five year old. She’s gotten better at staying in her own bed, but will be in ours shortly before dawn, and as soon as I am up, she is up. So either when I get up early I have company, or I am just too tired from the bed time battle the night before, and sleep later than I intended. I am, in some ways, addicted to sleep, because I love dreaming. Bad combination — a daughter who is a morning person AND a night owl, with a mom who needs to get up early but loves sleeping in.

      I had a colleague who retired last year, who told me she got up every day at 5 to do her marking before the rest of the family got up. I would love to say I do that, but so far, I haven’t even managed to obey my 6:30 alarm. Part of me says, it’s summer! Take a break, get rest, especially while my husband is home, but the other part of me wants to be ambitious. I can’t win!

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