The challenge of walking two paths

I’m a writer. I’m also a marketer. I walk two paths. I wear two hats. Really you can choose your own metaphor here.

While a lot has been said about the practical challenges of trying to write and hold down other jobs, less has been said about the emotional and mental cost this brings with it. But the complexity, confusion and divided loyalties that many modern artists have to struggle with is worth thinking and talking about.

Two hats, one head

For four out of seven days of the week I wake up in the morning, kiss my little girl on the forehead and proceed to don my ‘marketing manager’ hat. I get my brain into creative, but not too creative mode. I shift myself into managerial gear and prepare myself for logical conversations requiring patience, compromise, emotional intelligence, and a knowledge of the science of how to influence people.

The truth is I wandered rather aimlessly into a marketing career. It was never on little-Vicki’s wish list. Even if I had known what it was at age five or ten or even fifteen, I doubt I would have thought it particularly exciting on paper. But this in the end has been my career for two decades now. It is what I know how to do. So four days a week I take one part of myself out (like teeth in a glass of water), I put another part of myself in and I head off to work.

On this path, I have to be considered in my speech. This is me the business woman (not a natural fit). This is the me who needs to care about things like ROI, data and intel. On this pathway I think constantly about what motivates other people and how to influence them.

In this world other people’s ideas have primacy in my life. Other people’s work is most important.

I walk this path primarily to feed myself but I’ve worked hard to ensure that what I’m marketing holds real value and is important in the world. (I’ll eat a mars bar, but I don’t want to have to sell it).

In contrast, the writer in me isn’t yet called on to think about any of those things. On this pathway I am pure artist. My love is the comfort of the pen and paper, the pleasure of the imagination exercised in solitude. My joy is the challenge of pulling half-formed thoughts out of my brain and onto the page. It is the pain and thrill of turning jumbled ideas into a cohesive whole. This me loves Scrivener and book clubs. This me lives for the inspiration of the perfect premise; for the moment when a piece of the story snaps into place.

On this path, my ideas have primacy and my work – what I am birthing into the world – is the most important thing in my universe.

This is what I look like when I’m doing something utterly and completely for the love, while also working towards a future where some day perhaps it might help me feed myself.

Shifting gears

The challenge of having to try to shift from one self to the other is significant. It makes the question of ‘personal brand’ a complicated one for me. What do I focus on? Which career do I put the most energy into and at what time? What do I blog about? Talk about? Write about? What do I work towards and when? Who do I reach out to? Who do I build relationships with? What do I tell people that I do? What do I put as my occupation on the census, on a questionnaire, on my daughter’s birth certificate?

And those aren’t the only questions to answer. Not the only complexity to navigate.

Am I curtailing a perfectly reasonable marketing career by pouring my time into a writing career that could take forever to launch? Do I sacrifice progress in my paid job so I can progress the writing? Do I satisfy myself with a stagnated marketing career – forever stuck in mid management - so that I can create time? Do I sacrifice personal time to make inroads in my marketing career? What comes first? What comes last? Can I make progress in both? Do I even want to?

Two pathways can be difficult to navigate. Many times, my legs just don’t spread that far.

Different but related

The thing is these two versions of me aren’t all that far apart. Though they are quite different, they have much to offer each other.

I rely on artist-me for some of my most intuitive and creative insights into my marketing work. She is the one I turn to when I am stuck against a wall and can’t imagine a way out. And artist-me relies on (and will come to rely on) all the skills marketing-me has been building slowly but surely over the last two decades. If I know how to pitch a story or set up a website or create a marketing plan or sell a book, it’s due to Vicki-the-marketer. And if I know how to craft a story to sell someone’s work or craft a compelling message, it is thanks to Vicki-the-storyteller.

Somehow these two need to make their peace with each other in the short-term. At least enough so as I don’t lose my mind.

Towards one path

One day – hopefully sooner rather than later – these two paths of my life will merge in service of a single vocation. In that future, I won’t be Vicki-the-writer one day and Vicki-the-marketer the next, I will just be Vicki – writing my stories; selling my work; and hopefully doing some good in the world.

Perhaps on that day I will have cause to look back and feel grateful for my two paths, recognising that there is value in multiple perspectives and that I am greater than the sum of my parts.

Do you have to wear multiple hats or walk more than one pathway? What are your tips and tricks?