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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?

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