The Year of the Office: You can go home again…

This is my spot.
Photo by Alan Turkus via Flickr

The decision has been made: I’m going back to working from home by the end of the year. This decision didn’t come easy; I really like my little office downtown. I like looking out the window at the intersection. I like listening to the train rumble by. But I’m looking forward to going back home. Because, let’s face it, it’s home.

Here are the office pros and cons.

Pro: When you’re at the office, away from all the distractions of home, you can get more work done.

Con: When you’re at the office, away from all the distractions of home, you add distractions to your office. Suddenly my “work only” computer has Facebook and Twitter. I now check my email on my phone (which has a handy charger plugged in the wall by my comfy pink chair), which sits on my desk, instead of having to take a break and go to another room to do so. I often take a walk downtown, visit funky clothing shops, step into the fudge shop or the bakery…to clear my head, get ideas…not really. I’ll tell you what clears your head and gets your idea-factory running: scrubbing a toilet. That’s right. It’s the mind numbing, mundane tasks, like emptying the dishwasher or taking a shower, that bring your story into perspective. Not shopping or buying brownies.

Lesson learned: If you’re going to goof off, you’ll find a way to do it no matter where you are.

Pro: I get out of the house regularly.

Con: I have to leave the house regularly. And wear clothes. And a jacket. (What is it about office buildings and air conditioning?) And walk through a parking lot sometimes having to say hello to people or thank them for holding open the door, or time my own trek to said door so I can hold it open for someone else. Wave a hello to the receptionist if she’s out of her office, meet people on the stairs, pass offices with open doors, and sometimes have to nod at the people in the office next to mine as I unlock my door. It’s very uncomfortable.

Lesson learned: Forced social interaction is anathema to the introvert. (Like I didn’t know that already!)

Pro: There isn’t a pro for this one.

Con: Using a semi-public restroom.

Lesson learned: I do not like public restrooms. Human beings were not meant to pee in public.

Pro: Again, no pro.

Con: Privacy. Sure, I’m in an office. The door is closed. But I can hear other people out there. Luckily, the people in the office on one side of me are rarely in. And as far as I can tell, so far, the office on the other side is empty. But I am still self-conscious. Of my occasional coughing and sniffing (allergies, I think). And sometimes, I admit it, I snort. Of my frequent (Are they frequent? Are people in nearby offices counting?) trips to the bathroom. I catch myself talking to myself. I know I talk on the phone (in those rare instances in which I talk on the phone) way too loud. Why does everything seem so open out here in the real world, and so close and comfy at home? I can’t listen to music without earbuds. I can’t laugh at a cat video out loud. And I’m not supposed to be watching cat videos! (See above about goofing off.)

Lesson learned: I want to go home where I can snort and laugh in private.

Pro: Once again, no pro.

Con: Money. I don’t like spending money on an office when I have a perfectly good home at home. I think I’d rather spend the money on other things. I’ve already got a list going.

Pro: I look professional. There’s a sign on the door and everything!

Con: The thing is…there are two sides of being an author publisher. (Obviously.) The publisher side is the professional side. It’s great to be able to make that side feel official and serious and business minded. But the author side is the biggest part of me. I’m not one of those writers who can write anywhere. I’m like a mouse. I need a nest, a cocoon. I don’t write out in public and I don’t want to. I don’t think I need to look professional to be professional.

Pro: I have a space to write that is all my own and once there, I have nothing to do but write (once the little bit of goofing off is done).

Con: If I want to write, because I’m not one of those people who can just write anywhere, I have to leave the house and go to the office. I can’t just pop into my home-office and jot down a few hundred words when I get a great bit of story in my head. I feel separated from my work now that I have an office.

There was a time this year when I was putting out the third book in a trilogy. At the same time, I was updating the first two books and their covers and preparing an omnibus edition. There was so much work that I did some at home on weekends. I got confused several times as to which file (the one on the laptop back at the office, the one on the PC at home, or the one on the thumb drive?) was the most updated. That never would have happened when I worked at home. At home, I wrote on the laptop in my office and I formatted and published on the PC in another room. Once the file left my home-office, it was, from then on, kept on the PC. No juggling. No carrying from one place to another because I worked away from home.

Lesson learned: It’s just simpler to work from home.

So, why did I take an office to begin with? Well, I felt like I was wasting too much time. I was distracted by the laundry, meal planning and preparation, grocery shopping, housework, and all the gadgets at my disposal (television, etc.). I spent weeks, sometimes, not writing. I thought if I had an office, it would force me to write, even when I didn’t feel like it.

And it worked, up to a point. Unfortunately, it also had its downsides. I’m ready to go back home and appreciate what I’ve got there. But I think I’ve learned that there is only so much force a writer can apply to herself to write when it’s not in her to do so. Still, there are tools, tricks, and exercises that will help. I’ll just have to force myself to apply them.

Yeah. Wish me luck with all that.

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