Last week, while closing my eyes for a moment and waiting for a client’s baby to be born, (for those of you who might not know, my day job—or, more aptly, night job—is that of birth doula here in the Bay Area) I had two inspirational ideas for my novel-in-progress.
Reflecting on that moment of inspiration, which happened far from my desk, got me thinking about my life, which often feels like a mishmash. Here’s a short list of what I might be doing in a typical week: attending births, following up with clients who have had babies, answering questions about breastfeeding, marketing my doula business, working on my next novel, critiquing fiction for my monthly writers’ group, marketing my current novel, planning marketing communications for my consulting client… oh, and don’t forget making sure everyone in my family is fed, overseeing homework, chauffeuring kids to activities, and, if I’m lucky, finding a few minutes to chat with my husband.
I am often surprised at how many passions I have been privileged to pursue. For a long time after I quit corporate marketing I thought I would leave that life forever; instead I continued that career (as a consultant) and added my birth doula career to it. Writing, my first true passion, has been with me since before I thought of the word career.
These assorted activities have come to seem not so much a mishmash as a mischmetal, a term Wikipedia defines as “an alloy of rare earth elements in various naturally occurring proportions.” This fits much better than “mishmash,” with its implication of chaos. The elements of what I do have been mined from my deepest self and alloyed over the years into this thing I call “my life.”
For a writer, having a calling beyond writing can be a good thing. It keeps one fresh, keeps the mind from becoming too tangled in the minutiae of language, and yields a perspective that might be unavailable to an academic or someone who spends most of the day writing. (Wallace Stevens–lawyer/insurance executive and poet–has always stuck in my mind because of the seeming dichotomy between his two pursuits.)
My non-writing pursuits keep me constantly yearning, when I’m kept from my desk, to get back to the keyboard and write–and yearning is a great motivator.