Saturday, May 02, 2009

Living A Double Life

The image on this medallion represents Janus, in Roman mythology the two-faced god of beginnings and endings. Anyone who engages seriously in writing while trying to carry on something resembling a normal life knows the feeling of being dragged in two directions at once--at least two, sometimes more.

My medical career spanned thirty-six years in practice, twenty-six in a private setting and ten as a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. I've been retired now for over seven years and have been writing on a more-or-less regular basis for six. There was a time of transition after retirement, during which I added several more to the hundred or so professional papers I had published. I also co-wrote or edited a couple more textbooks. But as retirement "took," and I moved into this new phase of my life, I devoted less and less time to the teaching of medicine and more to learning what amounted to a new career: writing. Now, instead of attending a medical meeting this fall, I'll be teaching a course at the American Christian Fiction Writers meeting. The transition will never be complete, of course. Just as a professional football player will always follow the game (and often be tapped for his expertise to comment and enlighten others), I'll always have an interest in medicine. But now, if you ask me what I do, I'll say I'm a retired physician and educator, now writing full-time.

Of course, the "full-time" is a lie. I'm retired, but like most retirees, my life is as busy as it ever was while I was a member of the workforce. Not much has changed except the things that keep me busy. I still feel like Janus, pulled two ways and often three or four. But I keep writing.

Many of you who read this blog are writers, although most don't depend on it for your livelihood. You hold down one (or more) full-time jobs, while writing when you can steal the time. In his book, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, Lawrence Block refers to members of this group as "Sunday writers." His advice--and it's quite good--is to write when you can and not get discouraged because your time is limited. Very few authors are able to support themselves from the earnings from their writing. But if you're like most of us who spend our spare moments at the keyboard, you write because you have to. It's an important part of your life.

So if you feel like Janus right now, balancing driving the car-pool, keeping things going at work, trying to squeeze out a few moments for writing, know that you're not alone. That's the situation with most of us. Don't be discouraged. Write on!


Anne L.B. said...

I'm laughing at myself right now. I must be nuts to be trying to write, get published, raise (and homeschool) kids, stay active at church, occasionally speak—and absolutely never let my husband feel neglected. *sigh* But like you said, I write because I have to.

I just counted six directions, not two. So do I need a die to know which way to go?

I sure hope to make it to Denver.

Katie said...

Thank you for the post, Richard! It was exactly what I needed to hear. It was exactly what I was praying about this morning. I teach 5th grade, I am a wife, a mother of a six-month old boy, and a writer. I can't imagine not writing. There's just something inside me that needs to do it. But lately, I've been getting frustrated and discouraged at my lack of time. There just doesn't seem to be enough in a day. God is giving me some peace on this issue. Afterall, what is my hurry? I have no deadlines to meet (since I'm not published yet), so I don't need to be in such a rush to get my work done. Your post just confirmed my heart's prayer this morning. So thanks for sharing!

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Write on is the correct thing to say because as writers we cannot not write.

God Bless~~

Brenda Nixon said...

Great reminder Richard. As for juggling my speaking, publicity on my new book and writing assignments, I often lean on the advice one of my seminary professors gave after I confessed all the things I want and have to do. He said, "Brenda, you can have it all . . . just not all at once."

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Write on is the correct thing to say because as writers we cannot not write.

God Bless~~