The craziness of TWO careers

Over the past few weeks I have finally come to terms with something: I have two careers.

There’s the day-to-day salaried position as a marketing and communications specialist with a global organisation that brings in the dollars. And then there’s my other writing career–my fiction-writing career (for many years my secret career)–that doesn’t (yet) provide any remuneration, but which nonetheless demands almost as much of my time and attention. (And, if I’m honest, all of my passion.)

I am not alone in this. Thousands of writers the world over juggle day-jobs, family and ‘other’ obsessions. As do many elite and amateur sportspeople, actors and visual artists, serial home renovators, food bloggers, hobby farm enthusiasts–even volunteers with various charities, churches and/or first aid organisations. The list goes on.

Everywhere I turn I see a friend with a consuming passion that is unrelated to whatever he or she does for a day job. Many are writers of course, but by no means all.

What drives so many of us to invest ourselves in two careers? Depending on one’s vocation it might be raw natural talent that won’t be suppressed, or a competitive spirit. Maybe hatred of idleness; perhaps a dream of simply achieving a personal challenge.

Or, at the end of the day, is it merely the sheer joy found in whatever the activity happens to be?

I’ve asked myself this question often and it always comes down to one thing: No matter how much I sometimes resent it, or can’t be bothered on any particular day, I write because I can’t not write. It’s that thrill in the pit of my stomach that won’t go away…

There’s a price of course. For those of us with two careers, there will never be enough time. There will always be the lack of sleep as we try to cram as much into every 24-hour period as we possibly can, and the resulting exhaustion. There’s the housework that doesn’t get done (like the dishes in the sink I haven’t washed for three days and the vacuuming that hasn’t been done in at least a month). And there are the shortcuts one takes with meals…

Is it worth it? Resoundingly yes!

So we sacrifice our TV time (and our social lives) and turn a blind eye to the mouldering bathroom and we progress our two careers as best we can. But it’s not easy. I am constantly aspiring to better time management and striving for the discipline to avoid the lure of leisure-time (yes, I have blogged on these two things before!).

And now over to you. If you are crazy enough to have two careers, how do you manage your time and self-expectations? What drives you to keep going? What’s the hardest thing you have to sacrifice? (Is your housekeeping as unruly as mine?)

Image: zirconicusso /

31 thoughts on “The craziness of TWO careers

  1. While my kids are a big time consumer, they also help me keep the house chores reasonably accomplished while I write — by kid standards, of course, but at least I can say the living room was vacuumed yesterday. Not by me. And I’m sure not in the corners or under the coffee table. Are those places important, too? πŸ˜‰


    1. I am in constant AWE of parents who write. Don’t know how you find the time. Glad to hear they can help out with the chores. (I remember doing same when I was a kid.)


  2. Dreams and passions are so important. I mean, what’s the point if you’re not at least attempting to pursue a dream or live a passion. I agree ~ totally worth it.

    I try to manage my time the best I can in different ways. Right now, I’m using reminders on my iPhone and setting the microwave clock so that I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to move onto the next.

    My housework? Well, that’s always been a bit shoddy πŸ˜‰

    Great post! ~ Kim


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kim. I like the idea of iPhone and microwave timer reminders. My mother used to do the same thing with the buzzer on the stove.

      And you’re so right when you say that pursuing dreams is the whole point of living.


  3. This is so me! I’m glad to see that I’m not alone. I feel like I’m the only one juggling my full-time job, writing, and volunteer work at church. I don’t have kids and I’m single, but I feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do.

    Thanks for posting this!


    1. Thanks for dropping in, Gabriel! You are DEFINITELY not alone! I’m very pleased to hear I’m not either. Sounds like you almost have 3 careers though – yikes.


  4. Emily comes every two weeks to make sure the kitchen and bathrooms aren’t completely hazardous, and that’s the ONLY thing that’s saving me. Right now I figure I’m like you, Ellen, spending as much time on my avocation as I do on my full-time job. When KLamb asked us for our goals at the beginning of the WANA class, I said I want to earn enough from writing to offset the income I’d lose by dropping down to part time at my day job. If wishes were horses…


    1. Liv, I’m in that place too. I’d even settle for a lower income if I could make part of it writing/selling fiction. That’s where I’m tryng to head as well.

      I’ve been thinking about getting a cleaner. And a gardener. And a cook…


  5. The motivation is easy: I need money to pay for the electricity my computer uses while I type. πŸ˜€

    I’m a lousy housekeeper, and my daughter helps some. My main trick is to make myself get something noticeable done every day before I start writing. This keeps us in clean dishes and laundry… πŸ˜›


  6. Although I am not trying to juggle two careers, one of the best things I did in recent months was to get someone to help clean our apartment. While it might not be that big, it needs a couple of hours to get to everything. And after a busy week at work, the last thing I wanted to do was clean the house. I can imagine in your case that those few extra hours could mean 100s of words written!


    1. Yes indeed. I keep thinking about getting a cleaner. I might have to bite the bullet and do so soon. I keep finding cobwebs in the strangest places!


  7. I’m really beginning to realize what you mean!

    I go to university, but I’ve decided to study 150% instead of just full time. During my “free” time I’m revising my novel, I’m changing my eating habits for the better, I’m trying to manage my time, work as a bartender about two nights a month (it’s eats more time than that considering the shift of hours), I try to install good habits with housework (going so-so! :P) and well, I also want to start embroidering again. And I’m supposed to start exercising regularly soon and well…cook food every day.

    Basically I’m not only doing 150% studies plus the writing job. I’m also trying to change a lot of aspects of my life for the better, to benefit in the long run. At least I’m mostly adding/changing one habit at the time. Can’t really fit more in.


    1. OMG, Felicia, that’s an amazing amount you have on. Exercise is the thing I have to jam into my schedule somehow. My gym closed last November, and already that time has been comandeered. As for cooking… well, it’s just me and I’m getting a bit slack in that department.

      Good luck with all your life changes and studying and writing… Hope you come back and visit me here soon.


  8. I totally feel ya, Ellen! I have two kids at home (4yr old and 1yr old) and I feel like everytime I start a project I get distracted, AND there aren’t enough hours in the day…thank god for my helpful husband! I love all my ‘jobs’ so I can’t say I’d change anything (except a maid. I’d really really love a maid! lol) but I am glad to know I am not the only one scrambling for more time!


  9. Great post! Most days I feel like I have ten jobs, and it’s been like this for years, Children grow older and things do lighten up in some areas, and yet, continue to pile-up in others. Frustrating, yeah. But still, the truth is, when I step back and take a good look, I can see that this crazy mumble-jumble somehow works. Don’t always know how, but it does. I think it’s because what we love, the things that hold our passions, are the things we will always find a way to fit into our lives.


  10. I have three kids, and I homeschool the older two (the 3yo floats around during school time, playing with math manipulatives and destroying random small objects). I also write, though not as much as I would like to. Since I can’t be Super Woman, I’ve come to terms with the fact that raising and educating my children is my top priority. In another 15 years, the youngest will be college age and I can focus on my writing so much more than. In the meantime, I write when I can, but I don’t beat myself up about how much I accomplish–much. πŸ˜€


    1. It’s such a challenge, isn’t it. And we are all so prone to beating ourselves up when we don’t meet our self-expectations — I certainly do anyway. Good on you for knowing what your priorities are and knowing what you can achieve.


  11. Yup. 2 career-girl here. It’s sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes, I break and think of all I need to do and want to do, and I worry that I’ll never ever get it done. At least, not without losing some other part of my life. Then I have to let myself break, refocus, and move on. Because, like you, I cannot NOT write. I’ve always written. Always. I just have. Whether it’s my journal or blog, whether it’s letters to someone or random poems, or whether it’s an idea or the start of an idea or a novel…I need the pen and paper. I need the ability to not just say my words, but write them and make them beautiful.


    1. Sometimes I write a list of all the things I want to cram into a day (like today) and it’s so long that I have no idea where to start. And I almost start hyperventilating but then realise that all I can do is one thing at a time… Thanks for visiting, April.


  12. Ha! Synchronicity – just as I post an offhand comment about how writing vs not-writing is a Clayton’s Choice, you post this.

    It can get overwhelming, can’t it? I admit I rely very heavily on my partner; when I didn’t have him, I skimped on everything non-essential, in which I counted housework and food preparation. The dayjob and the commute eats up so much time already… I’ve learnt the hard way that I can’t skimp on sleep – if I do, then I lose all ability to maintain and regulate my brain, rather than the other way around. Then the negative thoughts get out of control, and so begins a vicious downward cycle. Not skimping on sleep means I have to skimp, much and always to my disappointment, on social life. But not too much, or the negative thoughts get too loud again.

    Balancing everything is … ongoing πŸ˜‰


    1. Hey Deb, I know, I thought the same thing! I’m reeally struggling with the sleep issue. I have so much I want to achieve that I skimp on sleep and then get so tired I can’t achieve anything. Frustrating.


      1. I wish I could hand you the magic formula! Once you settle into your new job, hopefully it will get a little easier on that front. I’m jealous of people who can skimp on sleep. For years what worked for me was to skimp just an hour or so each weeknight, and have one solid super catch-up sleep on the weekends. But that stopped working when my body randomly decided I couldn’t sleep past 7:30am any more.


  13. Four days a week at the paying job helps a lot. That gives me an extra day for the yoga teaching, other writing, or simply having a day off. I recommend a shorter working week to anyone who can engineer it. The dollars aren’t so great, but it’s a better life.


  14. I was very happy about finding this post, cause it means I’m not alone in having an actual career as opposed to a “day job”. I juggle two roles, as an advertising art director and a singer-songwriter – and I could argue that my case is a bit worse because although I might “enjoy” the music process more, I truly love both and can’t do one without craving the other. They simply challenge different parts of my brain.

    But I think you and I are in a similar situation where the more fun career can be strongly aided by the “main” one, because our communications skills are strong differentials in achieving artistic appeal and success.

    So here’s to us and our sleepless nights! I’ll be following your blog and wish you a lot of success on both your careers πŸ™‚


    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Felipe. It’s great to hear from a kindred spirit. I love that you’ve found the synergy between your two careers — that must be wonderful. Sometimes it’s easy to resent the one that pays the bills. I look forward to hearing from you again — cheers to sleepless nights!


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