Last week I had the pleasure of hanging out with my good friend John Rector and Sean Chercover. I’ve known Rector for close to a decade, and he’s honestly one of my favorite people. We hung out for around four hours and our topics of conversation ranged from what we were currently writing (In case you didn’t know it already, writers asking each other about what they’re working on is kind of like most folks talking about the weather. It’s our most common ice breaker, at least until we start getting into the nuts and bolts of whatever project we’re working on.) to how our families are, and all the usual topics you expect from two people who haven’t seen each other in four years.
The one topic that’s stuck in my head was the subject of working from home full time. I’m three months away from my first anniversary of writing full time, and I’ll straight up tell you that it’s an awesome way to earn a living. Yes, it’s at times very frustrating and it can leave you feeling anxious as all hell, but still, it’s way better than having to go into an office every day. But there are issues that go along with it that you don’t expect, and here’s a few of them. (Yes, this is going to be a listicle.)
1) There is No Such Things As Fridays Or The Weekend
You know how on Fridays you wake up and smile to yourself because it’s Friday and you know you only have to endure eight more hours until it’s the weekend. Yeah, it’s a great feeling. I haven’t had that feeling in nine months. When I wake up on Friday mornings, all I do is start making a list of what I absolutely have to get done because I know that my time is going to be sucked down to nil because my wife and daughter will be home on Saturday and Sunday, and they’re going to want to go out and do stuff, so I have to pack in as much work as I can before the day winds down. Of course, my work doesn’t go away on the weekends, either, it’s still there, and I just have to somehow manage to fit it in between family time.
2) You Never Leave The House
When Rector and I were talking, both of us commented how neither of us leave the house very much. During the school year, the longest period of time I spend outside of the house is taking my daughter to school and then picking her up at the end of the day. By the way, we live exactly one block away from my daughter’s school. Seriously, I can throw a rock and hit my daughter’s school from our house, so obviously it’s a short trip. Which means during the school year, I’m out of the house maybe 15 minutes a day. Yeah, I’m in the house 23:45 every day during the school year. I’m out a little more during the summer largely because I’m either running the midget to her grandmother’s house, or to a summer activity, so my time outside of the house has been extended to maybe two hours a day. By the way, folks, I’m not complaining about this. I really like my house.
3) Putting On Pants Kind Of Feels Like Dressing Up
I own three pairs of basketball shorts and they are the most comfortable items of clothing I own, so obviously I always wear them. I wear them so much they almost feel like a second skin. So when I have to put on pants (Even if it’s just another pair of shorts.), it feels like I’m getting ready to attend a formal dinner and I’m putting on a tuxedo. And, oh yeah, I rarely wear a shirt either, particularly during the hot months here in Phoenix, so putting one on feels like I’m slipping on a silk tie to go along with my tuxedo shorts.
4) You Get Pissed Off At The Dumbest Shit
When I was working from an office, I’d cruise social media on my phone and read statuses from other writers bitching and complaining about the most mundane shit. I mean really minor crap that would make me shrug and ask, ‘What the fuck are you complaining about this for?’ Then I started working from home, and it made so much more sense. Lack of external stimulation is kind of an issue. Yes I have books, music (I now listen to music pretty much continuously, which is kind of awesome.), movies, television, etc., but my human contact is minimal to say the least. So when my routines are upset in some minor way, I get a little upset.
For instance, when the dogs just start barking randomly, that shit just drives me up the wall. (This morning they started barking at a hot air balloon and wouldn’t stop barking for fifteen minutes even thought they were inside the house. Needless to say I went a little ape shit on them.), or when my wife starts listing off things that I already planned on doing throughout the day as she’s making her way out the front door. Or—and this is my biggest stay-at-home pet peeve—when my wife and daughter leave glasses and plates on the upstairs landing for DAYS at a time. YAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!
I know, all of this is minor, minor stuff, but it gets my goat. And I know that if it wasn’t these three things, I would just find something else to get a little angry about. But, I do tamp down the urge to be vocal about these teeny-tiny annoyances (Except for when the dogs are barking, sometimes you just have to yell at them or they’re just going to keep going and going.), because I fully acknowledge that they are stupid. Oh, I also promise never to complain about this stuff on social media. Even though I’m doing exactly that right now. So I promise not to do it anymore after this.
5) OH! LOOK! PEOPLE!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a people person. I mean, I like them, but it doesn’t upset me all that much that I’m not around them on a day-to-day basis. But when I get to be around people that I really, really like, words come vomiting out of my mouth until my pals start looking at me like I’m absolutely bugshit and my wife has to duct tape my mouth shut and drag me away.
6) You Don’t Have Days Off, You Have Hours Off
My family is getting ready to go on vacation for a couple of weeks and we’re all really looking forward to it because we haven’t taken a multi-week vacation in a long, long time. But for me, I’ll still be working because both personal and professional deadlines never stop. For instance, I’m 30,000 words into a new project and I’m cranking on it pretty hard, so obviously I’m not going to stop working on it while I’m on a roll. Also, I have a corporate gig which allows only so much time off during the year (And, yes, it is not paid time off) and I’ll still have to complete certain assignments while I’m on vacation. So I’ll be getting up a couple of hours early every day and going town to the lobbies of the hotels we’ll be staying at and putting in my hours before we start off for the day. It’s a little frustrating, but in the same breath, it’s absolutely necessary.
I know there are plenty of writers out there who take extended periods of time off (Hell, Chuck Wendig takes weekends off.) because they’ve been at the game for much, much longer than I have, and they can afford it. But at this stage in my career, if I take too much time off, I lose money. In fact, I’m so obsessive about it at this point, I’m even a little paranoid to take a stray afternoon off. I know this will change as time goes on, but for the time being, I’m going to keep churning away until I feel comfortable enough to take extended breaks from writing. But, considering my obsessive nature, I don’t really ever see that happening.
Anyway, there’s a few other points I’m sure I can touch on, but I consider writing this little essay to technically be time off, so it’s time for me to get back to work.