If I were a widget maker who went to work in a factory at the same time every day, I would leave work at the same time and the collect the same paycheck. There would be no uncertainty.
Instead I’m a novelist and freelance editor. No two days are alike, and uncertainty is a way of life. Will this novel I’m writing sell to a publisher? After spending 25 hours on this manuscript, will the writer actually send me a check? Will I have enough freelance work this month to pay my mortgage?
A little background: I’m a Type A personality and a bit of a control freak. I never leave on a road trip without a map and a hotel reservation. I am not cut out for uncertainty.
And yet, the life of a widget maker would drive me insane. Conversely, I love this life as a novelist and freelancer. So I must learn to live with uncertainty. Some days are easier than others. Yesterday got the best of me. Financially, this is the worst year my husband and I have ever had, and things will get worse before they get better. But in some ways, we are happier than ever.
Financial insecurity is not the worst of it though. The question of whether my recently completed novel will sell sometimes hinders my ability to move forward as a novelist. I have a new story outlined and two chapters written, yet a little part of my brain says, “Why bother?”
I always manage to push past this point. (Although, it once took a few years.) And I will again. I write because I am a storyteller. And the life of a storyteller is always filled with uncertainty.
My commute was up the stairs. My workday was self-directed, flexible, and light on responsibility. Most people would call it the ideal job. For me, working at home for a magazine was a long slow descent into depression, anxiety, and claustrophobia. The rest of the magazine staff was in New York, and a week at a time would pass without a call from my co-workers. E-mails simply served to exchange files. I was alone for eight or nine hours a day for more than a year and it drove me insane. I am a social creature. I generate energy from being around people. But that period in my life was years ago, before CrimeSpace, Facebook, Twitter, and list servs.
Now I’m working at home again as a novelist and freelance editor. So far, I’m loving it. But it is different this time. I’m connected to people through the Internet, and I’m able to set my own hours and take breaks when I want. But I worry about what it will be like for me six months or a year from now. I want this career phase to work out long term. So here’s my strategy for staying sane while working at home:
- Make time to reach out to people on the Internet periodically throughout the day.
- Have lunch with real-live person once a week.
- Conduct interviews in person even if they can be done by phone.
- Schedule regular social activities (such as weekly bowling with my brothers).
- Join a writers group and meet periodically (I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my list).
- Open Pandora, click my funk station and dance for five minutes at least twice a day. Dancing is so joyful, it wards off depression.
I assume that most of the people I interact with throughout the day also work at home. So tell me, how do you keep from getting cabin fever?