Like so many aspiring authors, I work a full-time job, and write during my nights and weekends. My day job, rather than being creative, is just the opposite: I work in scientific research. So I’m one of those folks who constantly bounces from using the left side of my brain to the right.
So far I’ve managed the Ping-Pong game fairly well. My days are filled with science speak: consulting with researchers, calculating antibody dilutions, and working out scientific protocols. In the evening, I let the other side of my brain come out to play, often squeezing at least an hour or two of writing into each weekday. My weekends are filled with blissful hours of writing, researching for my work-in-progress, mapping out new scenes and situations for the next book. In short, giving my imagination a workout. It’s exhilarating, but can also be exhausting. When Monday inevitably returns, I often don’t mind reviving the slumbering scientific side.
But other times, like when I’m deep into the final stages of a project, the chasm between the two worlds widens—exponentially.
I recently completed my second New Gothic romance novel, and was hurtling through the polishing process before it went to my editor. Over the past two months, I had written an additional 40,000 words to complete the book, then went through the manuscript twice doing edits. Every weekend, from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, my mind spent 90% of its waking hours in another place, another time, with imagined people—not the real ones in my life.
Thank God my husband is so patiently supportive of my writing passion, and my kids understand if they call or visit and I say, “I’m writing.” They know that even if they continue talking, I might not hear or remember a word they say.
Last week, my right brain didn’t play nice, meekly going back to sleep on Monday morning like it usually does. It issued an ultimatum. A frightening one.
I arrived at work on Monday at 7:00 a.m., sat down at my desk to begin planning the experiments for the day, and COULD NOT FOCUS. The words and numbers and chemical names on the page and screen looked like gibberish. I’d dragged my body into my daytime world, but my mind was screaming as loud as it could – Nooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The problem was, my thoughts were still several hundred miles away, in a little village called Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. where my story takes place. I was still thinking about my story, my characters, my ghosts, the carefully researched scuba diving scene. Images kept flashing in my head, ones that should be included in the book trailer to capture the tone and story line. Is the music quite right? What key words need to flash on the screen during the clips?
It took me an hour and several cups of coffee to lasso my right brain, beat it into submission, and lock it away for the day. The experience was painful, and disturbing, as I’ve always loved my day job. And heaven knows, I’m a long way from giving it up to write full time.
It is my goal, my long-term, 3 to 5-year plan. But that still means I’ll be playing brain Ping-Pong for several more years. If my right brain keeps this up, I’m in big trouble.
Does anyone else struggle with living two lives? Because as a creative who also has to live/work/function in the real world, that’s often exactly what we must do. How do you cope?
Claire Gem writes contemporary romance with a ghostly twist, a genre she calls The New Gothic. Her debut novel from SMP, Phantom Traces, is available in eBook, Paperback, and audiobook from Amazon. Visit Claire at her Website or Blog, and be the first to receive updates via her newsletter!