Sign up for our FREE Email Newsletter

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

 

The Work-at-Home Writer’s Troubles: Are You Asking For It?

The other day, I called a friend—it was after five, when I knew she’d be home from her job. She said, “Can I call you tomorrow morning? I’m not working—and I can catch up with you then.”

I said no, politely reminding her that I'd be working.

I’ve worked as a freelancer for years, and I’ve spent many hours fuming about friends, family and neighbors thinking that what I do is not a job. But honestly, I’ve played a role in that sort of thinking. I want people to take me seriously in my stay-at-home job as a working writer, but there were times when I was just asking for trouble. Maybe you'll see yourself (and a solution), too.

The Accommodating Writer

I have lots of friends who work jobs outside the home. I wouldn’t think of calling them at work unless it was an emergency. But friends call me at home—where I work—just to chat, or to ask a favor since I’m “at home, anyway.” For too long, I’d answer my phone, all the while resenting the person encroaching on my time and me.

So I stopped answering the phone during my workday. I call back, after quitting time (At 5:00, in case you want to call me). And folks got the message.

Sometimes, I’m perfectly happy to accommodate my friends, but only when my work can accommodate the interruption.


The There-In-A-Crisis Writer

Because I set my own hours, I have a certain flexibility in my schedule. So when there’s a crisis, it’s expected that I’m the one who has the freedom to immediately lend a helping hand.

And the truth is that often, I can let my work go, and go where I’m needed. But flexibility is not another word for freedom. I still have job responsibilities and deadlines to meet. There have been many times that my work suffered while I jumped in to help in a crisis—and watched everyone else go about his or her business. Of course, resentment eventually reared its ugly head.

Until I realized that I was allowing the situation. I can jump in, but I don’t have to do everything, all the time. I figured out that it’s okay to bend with my schedule, but it’s not okay to let others take advantage of my work schedule.


The Subtly Undermined Writer


What about all those people hanging around, sharing our work space? Sure, they support us and love us—and annoy the stuffing out of us. They always seem to want something (it might even be stuffing if it happens to be Thanksgiving).

It’s hard to work at home with constant distractions—and it doesn’t matter if it’s young kids, grown-up kids, roommates or spouses. But I was subtly undermining my position as a self-employed writer when I’d stop my work to give a listen to them, and then put my work aside for their needs.

It didn’t take long for me to see that subtlety wouldn’t work. Now I shout, “Working!” whenever anyone walks into my office. They walk out because they know I’m not going to stop (until 5:00). I set work boundaries—and stick to them.

And guess what? Those people who live with me still love me. (My stuffing? Not so much.)

~Cathy C. Hall



Labels: , , , , ,

12 Comments:

Blogger Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I definitely relate to a lot of things in this post, Cathy!

I've had people who never ask about my writing suddenly become experts in what I do. They wanted me to relocate for a month to help out with a situation, saying my work is flexible and I could write wherever. I was more than willing to help but not to that degree.

I've had the same situation with phone calls, too. Although once, someone actually said in the message, "I know you're writing and not going to pick up, totally understandable. Just wanted to leave a message…." That acknowledgment of my work really meant something to me! :)

6:47 AM  
OpenID c-c-hall.com said...

Madeline, it's always great to get a little validation!

Working at home is tough, but working as a writer (where you might not have anything tangible to show for your efforts) makes it even tougher.

Speaking of tangibles--congrats on your book! ;-)

7:05 AM  
Blogger Debra Mayhew said...

Many weekends, I steal away to the library for a few hours. One Sunday a family member called for me while I was gone. To have my husband say, "She's at the library working on her book" went a long way to helping that person realize that I'm serious about this. If I'll arrange time out of the house while Nathanael watches the kids, then I'm serious about it! And I know what you mean about resentment building up...and the only solution is to say NO. Politely, of course, but still. No. It's very liberating to realize there's nothing wrong with making writing a priority! Thanks for a great post that really hit home for me.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Lisa Claro said...

Sing it, sistah! How about the question by people who should know better: "So what did you do all day?" Burns me. Yep it does. It has taken a long time for the answer, "I worked all day, just like you," to be accepted with a nod and not a roll of the eyes. *sigh* I feel like Rodney Dangerfield.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Sioux said...

Cathy--It seems like you have set up some handy-dandy parameters that work for you, so you CAN work.

Bravo.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

You are preaching to the choir, sister! :) I hear you. I agree with you! And walk in our shoes!! :)

8:07 PM  
OpenID marilynslagel said...

I started working at home in 2000 full time. It took years to get the scheduling down and ingrained in my mind along with everyone else's mind. Early on, I was quick to put my work aside for the phone, to take someone for an appointment, etc. When I added writing to my "regular" job, I learned to say NO. I don't answer the phone and absolutely refuse to make any unnecessary apptointments on work days. My dog even hates me for it. I get off work at midnight - she wants to go to bed at 10:30. Such is life!

10:06 PM  
Blogger Linda O'Connell said...

My freelancing has been referred to as "a little writing hobby". My preK teaching as "babysitting."
You are correct, we must establish boundaries. I can so relate to your post.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Y'all make me want to sing--something like..."I am (stay-at-home)writer, here me roar!" :-)

5:40 PM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

Oh I hate to just chime in and be one more, "Amen Sistah!" but here I am.

Recently my college-graduate son had to move back home for medical reasons. It's temporary until his procedures are complete, but it's been so hard for me sometimes. My office (OK his bedroom) was taken back, my long quiet hours were disrupted and event the internet is slower since he's on it more. When I feel frustrated, I also feel very selfish. He'd rather be out living his own life too, not at home under these circumstances.

I've had to really learn to breathe deep and make adjustments. I keep telling myself that I should be glad for this time we have together before he moves on, even if it's under less than ideal circumstances.

As for the friends calling... they can wait. ;)

12:54 PM  
Blogger LuAnn Schindler said...

Happens all the time!

"Oh, can't LuAnn run to town to pick up parts?" Hello! The round trip cuts an hour out of my day.

My husband is generally supportive and reminds people that I am working, but he sometimes is the interrupter. Ugh! Since the youngest daughter and her two boys have had to move back into our home, he's been much more understanding about my writing time.

As far as phone calls, I look at caller id and make the decision if I will or won't answer. Calls can wait til later, most of the time.

4:40 PM  
Blogger LuAnn Schindler said...

Happens all the time!

"Oh, can't LuAnn run to town to pick up parts?" Hello! The round trip cuts an hour out of my day.

My husband is generally supportive and reminds people that I am working, but he sometimes is the interrupter. Ugh! Since the youngest daughter and her two boys have had to move back into our home, he's been much more understanding about my writing time.

As far as phone calls, I look at caller id and make the decision if I will or won't answer. Calls can wait til later, most of the time.

4:40 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts