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O is for Office

Where do you write?

That might seem like a simple question to answer: at home, at work, wherever I can are obvious answers.

For me, at home is not the best answer. I have suspected this for a long time, but the lockdown made it clear. In theory, working from home without losing between one and two hours to a commute and staying up later, I’m a bit of a night owl, would leave me able to write a lot of fiction.

It has not worked that way. This did not surprise me.

I have had positions with work at home aspects in the past, and they have not worked well. Home is full of distractions such as books to read, projects to work on, and my cats to play with. As such, I have historically avoided working from home whenever possible.

I’ve been taking this into account as I’ve planned to retire to writing at fifty-nine and a half. I concluded that my financial planning needed to include the overhead of an office of some kind. I have investigated co-working spaces and low-end offices. I’d run numbers on using Waffle House as a “work and breakfast” most mornings while a coffee shop became the place I ground out words in the afternoon.

For a while in 2019, I would set up my laptop on the first-floor lounge area of the office building my day job is in. I was somewhat productive, getting a thousand plus words out in the hour immediately before or after the day job on days I did it.

Then I lost both offices, the one for my day job and the informal one downstairs for writing. I struggled to be productive on the day job. Despite a year and change of working from home, I think at best I’ve only become as productive as I was at the office in the past month. Even then, my sustained days of productivity are still fewer. I have come nowhere close to the same level of productivity in writing. This month, with the A-Z Challenge, is the first time I’ve even come close.

Two things are going on with this. The first is the distraction I’ve mentioned above. I have too many hobbies, as a reader can see from this blog. In electronics, I am interested in both retro/homebrew computers and building a modular synthesizer. I also dabble in woodworking and metalworking. I play lots of games. I tend to game master much more than play in RPGs, so there is always research to do and campaigns to plan. The ability to go somewhere with fewer other things to pull at my attention is precious.

I also gain a lot of value from just having a bit of travel to transition from home mindset to work mindset. The work can be computer programming or the writing of fiction. Both benefit from the travel time. How much time is the minimum? I don’t know. From the kitchen to the living room, where I have my work office setup, is not enough. I drive to a QT on the route of my old commute most mornings for caffeine, same as when I went to the office for my day job, and it helped day job protectivity by giving me the mental shift. Perhaps an office in the backyard that I only entered for writing would suffice.

For now, I’m building renting a low cost co-working space for a writing office. I’d like it to be at least fifteen minutes away, but no more than thirty. I want the ritual of going to the office to help transition to “it’s writing time”.

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  1. My home office has been a good place for me. Since this pandemic started and my office building closed I have reorganized my home office a lot to accommodate my writing more. I feel like I have gotten a lot more done in the last two months.

    Tim Brannan, The Other Side: 2021: The A to Z of Monsters

    • I know a lot of people have had your experience. Most of my group at work favors not returning to the office or only returning 1-2 days a week.

      I think the biggest thing I need to work on is the mental transition. While I say I need an office to write, it might be possible to integrate a writing life with my home life easier than my quant day job has been.

      Finally, I’m flattered you stopped by. I’ve been reading The Other Side for a long time. It has to be more than a decade since I read it before I came to Atlanta.

  2. Me too I have an “in theory” experience with working from home. When we all started working from home due to Covid, and I no longer had the 2+ hours of commute, I realised how much time was freed up! I have always enjoyed the train commute, but now, I didn’t miss it. I loved working from home, found that I could focus better. But I was also surprised about the effect it had on my jewellery making, which runs as a passion alongside my day job. I tended to spend less (almost no) time in the studio compared to before. I haven’t figured out why that is, but it did surprise me.

    • Could it be a separation issue. If work happens at the same location could you be mentally tuning out non-work things there?

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