I am in an intimate relationship with two different muses. I never allow them to meet.
What do I mean by that? I’m referring to the two worlds in which I apply creative thinking as well as my writing experience and training. Readers of The Artist’s Road know me as the recent MFA graduate who is living an art-committed life and recently completed a memoir. Co-workers at my day job know me as the recent MFA graduate who is applying lessons learned in a quarter century of professional writing to craft speeches and promotional campaigns. Yet I haven’t even hinted about my “day job” here on this blog since first noting I was starting it, and perhaps only a half-dozen people in my professional circle know I’m seeking publication for a book.
I have found myself reflecting on this double life a bit more since reading a post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner titled “Your Artist Self and Your Business Self.” Rachelle notes that many creative writers have a difficult time separating their artist selves from their business selves, at times resisting artistic decisions that could increase commercial possibilities. I come to creative writing late in life after years of being paid to write to audiences, so I feel fairly comfortable producing work I feel has artistic value while also providing value to a large number of readers.
Where I see two selves is a place where I know most artists see them. When I drove across the country in 2010 interviewing artists, all of them had found sufficient professional success to have drawn my attention to be interviewed, but perhaps less than twenty percent of them were fully financially supported by their art. The artists who were self-sufficient via their art did have the ability to balance their artist and business selves, as Ms. Gardner advocates. But I saw that balance in many of the other artists as well, the ones who had day jobs. The jobs themselves were diverse–a special education teacher, an art gallery assistant, a landscaper, a heavy machinery salesman.
When William Least Heat-Moon finished the cross-country road trip depicted in Blue Highways and applied himself to writing–and then significantly cutting–his manuscript, he didn’t return to a teaching job. He found a day job doing manual labor, because he felt it kept his creative energy free to focus on the book. I have written and significantly cut my road-trip memoir while working a day job where I write and think creatively all day. Unlike Heat-Moon, I must manage my creative energy sufficient for both of my selves.
I believe I do. So why do I keep them so separated? Well, in the post I wrote shortly after starting my new job last year I vowed to maintain that separation. It is respectful to my employer not to talk about my work beyond its walls. As for my creative-writer self, I am permitted by my employer to do my own writing and social media, but I don’t see any reason to bring that world into my workplace when my workplace isn’t here on The Artist’s Road or in my personal essays.
So the double life continues. I know from my network of artists friends that it is hardly unusual to live a double life when a creative. And I am fortunate to have both. When giving thanks at the dinner table with my family on Thanksgiving last week, I voiced appreciation for both, and thanked my wife and children for supporting me in both.
Do you find a separation at times between your creative self and another self, perhaps that of employee or parent? What is involved for you in maintaining balance?