I read Variety Club by Sophie Herdman recently (Psychologies, UK edition, March 2012), an article about the growing number of people who have more than one career - a 'portfolio career'. It struck me as I read it that I am one of these people, as I am both a teacher and a writer.
Teaching is currently my main career and writing my second, solely based upon which pays the most money! When it comes to which I prefer, they both offer something very different. Having just started a new teaching job, I've discovered you sometimes need to dedicate more time to one of your careers than the other. Or certainly more time than you'd like. I like to write every day, preferably a minimum of 1,000 words, but often it's just not possible. Getting to grips with new computer systems and new technology (never my strongest suit!) was more than I'd bargained for.
In some ways teaching and writing are similar. Writing can be a lonely task. You can join critique groups, forums, and blogs, but ultimately you have to do it alone. Teaching is the same. You have your colleagues to chat to and ask for help when preparing a lesson, but once you enter the classroom you're on your own. There's no-one who can help you out if you can't remember how to explain a grammar point.
When teaching you have interaction with your students and you can build up a bond. Sometimes they teach you new things as well as the other way round. When writing, your characters do take up space in your head and you might even have a conversation with them, but you need to remember they are not real!
In one respect teaching and writing are very different and that's in regard to deadlines. When teaching you have very specific deadlines: you need to be planned before the class starts. Some people like to be planned days or at a minimum hours in advance, but some people literally finish planning as they pick up the books and head into the classroom. With the kind of writing I do (blogging and writing short stories, articles and trying to write a book), you more often than not have to set your own deadlines and that's really hard. People are often too demanding or too lax; it's hard to get the balance just right.
I love having two careers which are in some ways similar and in some ways different. I find they compliment each other and both provide something unique which makes the other job easier and more rounded.