Friday, July 15, 2011

Focus Friday: The Wonders and Woes of Working From Home

Fridays are usually my best working day of the week (hence: Focus Fridays).  It's usually a day where I enjoy the wonders of working from home:  getting to take my lunch break whenever (or having my husband cook something and deliver it within inches of my keyboard), writing barefoot and in sweatpants if I so choose, and choosing which projects to work on (although deadlines occasionally dictate that).

Today, however, was quite short of wonderful.  The 'woes' of working from home found their way into my work day.  An early AM call, for example, in which a family member needed a babysitting favor--because everyone else in the family was 'working.'  A weekly switch in hubby's workschedule, which is less 'flexible' than mine.  "I'm going out, can you please finish cooking that rice right now?" You get the drift.

What's most ironic about the whole situation is that on Wednesday and Thursday of this week I participated in an online Q&A session with children's author Susan Ulhig, and specifically discussed work schedules, etc.  Writers like Susan, apparently, take measures such as not answering the phone, assigning specific work hours, or even going to a coffee shop all day to avoid the distractions of home and family.

On a day like today, I admire their set schedules, especially because I'm a little flustered.  But as I'm writing this post, I'm reminded of why I chose to work from home in the first place.  I like my home.

While I wouldn't say I like being interrupted, I would say that I like knowing what's going on in my household, with my children, and having every resource at my fingertips.

If I assigned very specific work hours, I might be writing when I don't want to be writing––or worse, I might miss the chance write at a time I really feel productive.  If I went to a coffee shop to write, I'd have to type all of my stories on my iPad - which I'm sure would be more frustrating.  And, I live in a small place, so the chances that someone who knew me would start a conversation are really high.

I realize that I actually really enjoy breaks for laundry, dishes, or snacks.  And, I really enjoy getting to be there when the caterpillars emerge from their chrysalises, or my son says a new word.  Plus, I'm a pretty motivated writer and a strict professional, so I know the work will get done.  It just might mean waking up earlier or going to bed later.

So, I guess this week, like most, I'm enjoying flexibility but taking the frustration with it.  Frustration:  I'll have to work on Saturday this week.  Flexibility:  I know I did something really important to help out my Grandfather today.

As for the 'Focus' element - I've decided to be more vocal about my work to my family.  How can I expect them to realize I work too if I don't share it with them?

Here are three concrete steps I'm going to take in showing my family my professional obligations, so that they may realize that writers like me who work from home have real jobs, too!

1) Calendar:  While I have an iCal laced with deadlines and project milestones, it's only on my personal computer.  So I'm printing my project deadline schedule every week and posting it next to the actual family calendar so everyone can see it.

2) Conversations:  I realize that other writer friends of mine and online followers or book fans know more about my current writing projects than my family.  I'm making it a point to discuss one story, article, or book I'm working on every day at breakfast (the meal when all of us are guaranteed to be home), and send out a monthly email to extended family regarding my exciting projects, struggles, and successes!

3) Income Statements:  Every three or four weeks, I assess and update my income from writing in a spreadsheet -- but I don't really update my husband on my earnings which go into a separate bank account.  While I consider myself a part-time writer and author, my income is an important contribution to our household.  I plan to share a printed, monthly account of my revenue and expenditures, so that he might be reminded of and appreciate the 'fruits of my labor' year-round not just once a year at tax time.

How do you help your family focus on your work as a writer from home?


Anne E. Johnson said...

Staying productive as a writer is tricky, isn't it? I'm extremely lucky that my husband "gets" that my writing is work. But during the nine months of the year when I teach, it's a big struggle to get regular writing in. I find the only way I can do it is to schedule specific writing times, then write whether I feel like it or not.

As for writing in coffee shops, I do that a lot, but I enjoy drafting by hand in a journal, so I can do that anywhere.

Good luck finding a schedule and approach that works for you.

Claudine Gueh said...

It was difficult for me at first, too. All the distractions and family & friends thinking that I was home, instead of me working from home. But I guess the change began when I changed: I stayed more focused on my work and by and by, people began to see that I really was working, and couldn't chat or do chores until maybe later ... Being with self, I say! =)
Hope things work out on your end soon, Miranda!

Miranda Paul said...

@Anne E. Johnson - I don't know that I have a problem staying productive, it's just being able to be productive at the time I want to becomes difficult in a house with toddlers, etc! But sometimes I just have to laugh it off. I've also begun to slow down my workload, actually turning away assignments lately. It's strange to think about, but less work actually makes me a better writer sometimes.

Miranda Paul said...

@Claudine Gueh - I agree! I have to show and tell them that I am focused. Often in our manuscripts, we think we ARE showing, but we're not. The same applies to real life! I have no doubt things will be back to super productive by next week. Thanks for the post!

Beth Reinke said...

Love your ideas for sharing tangible evidence of your writing with your family, Miranda. As another work-from-home writer, I think they're great - thanks for sharing them. ";o)

Miranda Paul said...

Thanks, Beth!

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