Day jobs that complement a writing career

I have two completely different personas. Those who know one side of me often have no idea of the existence of the other—something I have been working to change through confessionals like this.

Sidewalk Man or water service cover? Writer or birth doula? It depends on the time of day… and how you look at it.

One persona is that of the fiction writer. The other accompanies my “day job.” I put that in quotation marks since it’s more like an anytime-of-day-or-night job. Because, in addition to writing and editing fiction and non-fiction I also work as a birth doula.

A birth what?

That’s the typical reaction of most people who have not had children in the past 15 or 20 years. A birth doula is a professional who assists families with non-medical support during labor and birth. What that means in practice is that I hold hands, coach dads in what spots to massage on the laboring mom, run and fetch cool cloths, hold buckets while moms throw up, whisper words of encouragement, suggest when might be a good time to get in the shower, give parents permission to cry when things don’t go the way they had planned, and share the joy of a new life emerging into the world.

In other words, it is almost the complete opposite of my work as a writer: physical, unpredictable, and other-focused.

It is the perfect complement to my writing career.

While finishing my senior thesis in college, I also had a part-time job as different from writing as one could imagine. I worked at a restaurant as a “salad girl,” pastry chef, and short-order breakfast cook. It was the perfect complement to the cerebral work of finishing up my bachelor’s degree.

Some of the most interesting writers, past and present, have had day jobs that could not be more different from their work as writers. For two good roundups of the day jobs of some famous authors, check out a blog post from David Kubicek and a slideshow at Huffington Post. (William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician; John Steinbeck ran a fish hatchery.)

A couple of my fellow CWC members also have interesting day jobs. James Hanna, whose novel The Seige is scheduled to be published by Sand Hill Review Press, works in the criminal justice system. Max Tomlinson, author of Sendero, describes himself on his blog as “a software architect, which is a euphemism for an aging computer programmer.”

What about you? Does your day job merely put food on the table or is it something that balances and sustains your life as a writer? Or are you lucky enough to be a full-time writer of fiction?

12 thoughts on “Day jobs that complement a writing career

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  1. I’ve held a variety of day jobs, most of which were totally out of synch with who I was, mostly in clerical/admin roles. I tried to find settings in which to do these jobs that were more palatable than the corporate world (which I found I hated). I worked for two publishing houses (one as permissions editor and one an editorial assistant), a private school (as a secretary and bookkeeper), a community service agency (admin), and for a New Age physician who sold self-hypnosis (order fulfillment).
    For 18 years, I worked for a non-profit career center (founded and run by my husband) and did so many things I can’t list them all. I did grant writing, taught vocational business English, and did the books and payroll and taxes, among other things. After that long-term position, I was a church administrator and a development assistant/grant writer for several non-profits. Eventually I began doing tutoring (working for a service and then starting my own business), and have done – off and on some freelance ad copy and internet writing jobs. These latter positions, unfortunately haven’t paid many bills. In sum, most of my jobs have put (some) food on the table. However, there have been bits and pieces of some of my jobs that have been fulfilling, and I’m trying to finally achieve that balance as I wind down my professional career. My goal now is to write and make some money at it – at long last! And I also enjoy tutoring kids and adults in writing and English, and English as a Second language.


    1. Wow, I had no idea you had such a varied work background. It sounds as if many of them weren’t necessarily the most fulfilling positions in the world but I’ll bet you ran into some great characters and situations to feed your writing.


  2. I love it! I had a doula with my first pregnancy and she was great! She was pregnant at the same time, in fact, with her third child. I’ve recently gotten into yoga, and am getting my certification so I can have ‘flexible’ work and write! I think what you do is wonderful!


    1. Thanks, it’s really fulfilling work. And I imagine being a yoga instructor is, too. I’ve practiced yoga for more than 20 years and have thought about becoming an instructor but honestly, there’s only so much time in the day! Good luck and I hope it provides the flexibility you’re looking for.


  3. Your day job is awesome! I would have never guessed. But then again, I don’t think any one could “hint” at being a birth doula. I am a SAHM, and that role is talked about a lot in my writing, at least on my motherhood blog. On my writing blog, not so much. I definitely thinking having more than just writing keeps my writing interesting.


    1. I am always really impressed with people who can be full-time parents. It’s such an undervalued job in society that people don’t even look at it as a job, and of course one doesn’t get monetary compensation. It’s also a rich source of material!


  4. I have had some interesting jobs for sure, though if I never have to clean another public restroom, I’ll be happy. I suspect life as a doula is interesting and fulfilling, but I suppose sometimes those 3 am calls aren’t always welcome. 🙂 But I’m sure the families are grateful to have you–anything to make the experience less clinical and more natural.


    1. I think I remember you mentioning, or at least hinting at, your public restroom cleaning role. THAT’S certainly an undervalued job. But just try NOT doing it and see how people feel!


      1. True. I doubt any of those fast-food restaurant feeders appreciated the clean bathrooms I left them, but, as you point out, I bet they would have noticed if they weren’t cleaned!


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