Today’s guest blog about work/life balance is from Pam Ripling—lighthouse aficionado and cross-genre author.
When I first saw the title of L.J.’s wonderful blog, “Write First, Clean Later,” I had to laugh. It’s a laudable mantra, not only for authors but for anyone who works out of their home. I’ve had a home business for 18 years, and I had to learn that work—be it writing a novel or balancing a Read more →
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?
One of my corporate freelance clients sends me work in waves, and right now I’m riding a tsunami of company profiles that just keep coming. So my nearly completed second Detective Jackson manuscript (Secrets to Die For) is languishing, with only an hour dedicated to it each morning—and half of that spent trying to wake up.
The bigger problem is my family members (for whom I am the go-to guy) don’t really get it when I say, “I can’t talk right now, I’m working” or “I can’t give you a ride, I’m on the clock.” They assume that if I’m home—and setting my own hours—I should be flexible enough to accommodate just about anything.
I’m sure thousands of writers have learned to deal with this, and I will too. I’ve only been a full-time freelance for five months. (I did work at home for a magazine for a year, but that’s another blog.) Yesterday, I started screening calls and simply let the phone ring. Then felt so guilty. What if my brother needed me to drive him to the hospital? What if my mother fell down and couldn’t get up? (I checked in late last night and they’re both okay.)
But still, I have another profile to crank out today… and I have to decide how to handle all the interruptions (mine included). I’d love to hear from freelancers who have mastered this situation.