I’ve been a full time writer since 1998. That was the year when I lost my job as a tech writer about a month before I was due to get married, and about three months before the deadline on my latest novel. My darling then-fiance-now-husband agreed that finalizing a wedding, and a novel and starting a job hunt might be a bit much all at once and we agreed I should go full time to see how it went.
Since then, it’s gone pretty well. Ups and downs, yes, but in the main, pretty well. But it also means I’ve been working from home for twelve years. For twelve years, my commute to work has been no more than six feet from my bedroom.
This, obviously, has all kinds of advantages. I can work in my bathrobe. I can work around all the other responsibilities of hearth and home. I can travel for research or conventions or the heck of it without having to rearrange my work schedule.
Turns out, however, it has all kinds of disadvantages. Especially after the kid arrived. Now that I’m also the recipient of the blessings of motherhood, and the darling husband is holding down a job as a lecturer at a major research university, going out in the evening after a long day’s writing in the in-home office is much less of an option. So, I was having days when I never left the house. Then, while working in this splendid isolation with no boss looking over one’s shoulder, there’s the close proximity of the fridge. And the television. And my To Be Read pile. And the laundry. And I’m tired so why not a nap, or a pause to work in the garden. And the deadline’s a year out, so I’ve _plenty_ of time…
Perhaps you begin to see the problem here. It got worse when, in 2006, things kind of collapsed and I didn’t have any contracts for awhile.
So, to alleviate the isolation, I started heading out to coffee shops with my laptop. This is a classic writerly solution. And it’s a good one. For one thing, I live in an area with an extremely high coffee-house to person ratio. I prefer tea to drink, but will happily down a cup of decent coffee, most places have a few outlets, and sit, people watch and write. My favorite places to work are the cafes in bookstores. Being surrounded by books while writing is really inspirational. Infuriating, sometimes, but mostly inspirational.
And this was working fine for awhile too. Then, two things happened: the major bookstores went to free WiFi, which meant I suddenly had a lot more competition for available outlets and the spaces themselves started getting a lot more filled up. I also started adding up what I was actually spending on all that coffee. And the muffins. Did I mention the muffins? Coffee shops have muffins. And cake. And cookies. All sitting right there, available for a small fee to help you over that moment when you’re trying to think of the next word.
Enter, the Workantile Exchange.
Now, I’d seen this space coming together on Main Street. It’s part of the co-working movement. A lot of people who work from home or telecommute, have similar problems to mine, with you know, procrastinating, isolation and muffins. A lot of buildings in Michigan are sitting empty. So, a group of people who wanted a good workspace got together with a landlord who decided it was better to get a little something than nothing at all for their space, and set up an open plan office with desks, chairs, lots of outlets, good WiFi and a discount with the local coffee roaster on the other side of the lobby. For $100 per month, you get a space, internet, a fridge for your lunch and access to the microwave and electric tea kettle. Oh, and a commuter bus pass.
So here I am, after 12 years of the six foot commute. I’m making my lunch in the morning, dropping the kid off at school, parking in the commuter lot and getting my exercise by walking into town with my laptop in my backpack. I set up at an available table, make my tea and get to work. I work from about 10 to about 4:30, pack up, get my second bout of exercise by hiking back to the car. I don’t know whether this will be a long term solution, or just a break in the routine. But I do know this, since I’ve been doing this I’ve finished the re-draft of one book (on deadline), sucessfully re-plotted another due on June, and outlined yet a third due in September. I have also radically decreased my intake of cranberry-orange muffins.