Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Although I'm not a full-time writer, I have already attained one of the primary perks of the writing life: I work from home.

I do have a desk in an office somewhere that I visit occasionally -- when I can carpool with my boss -- and he takes me out to lunch.  Of course I never get any work done on those days.  I'm too busy gossiping, reminding VIPs I still work there, and making sure my special chair hasn't been stolen (since I plan to steal it myself if I ever leave the company).

I'm no fool; I treasure this deal.  Working from home really is as sooper-dooper fantastic as you think it will be.  But having done it for many years now, there are a few bits of advice I'd like to offer to anyone heading into this dream:

1.  Build in some exercise, preferably outside your home.  Seriously.  Even if it's just shopping.  When you work from home, you aren't required to do anything as strenuous as change your clothes, and this takes a physical toll faster than you'd think.  Even if you aren't vain about your figure, you'll miss having nominal levels of stamina next time you go on vacation.

However, this is for your mental health as much as your physical health.  When your commute is fifteen feet, you tend to start working five minutes after you wake up.  Combining your work and home life in one space also means you tend to think about work 24/7.  Exercise breaks reset your head.

2.  Make sure you have healthy food in the house and schedule regular breaks in which to eat it, especially breakfast.  When your diet consists primarily of leftover Halloween candy and a spoonful of salsa consumed no earlier than 3pm, you will quickly degrade into a concentration-challenged, clinicly depressed blob of arterial plaque and cellulite.

3.  Make sure you have a variety of adult, in-person social interactions built into your life.  Otherwise your social skills will atrophy just when you need them most: in your loneliness you'll start weirding out supermarket cashiers with stories of your childhood pets; you'll commit tweets about your body hair; you'll mortify your editor.

Obviously this is basic wisdom for anyone at any time.  I only spell it out here because we tend to take for granted that most jobs build in some of this stuff.  When we're finally cut free from all the structure, we're so blissful we fail to remember what it bought us.

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