Friday, June 5, 2009

Ah, the Joys of Home Work

by Susan McBride

My husband thinks I'm so lucky. As a full-time writer, I work at home, which means I don't have to fight rush-hour traffic in the morning or change out of my pajamas until noon. He's jealous, too, that the cats can hang out in my office, their furry lengths draped across my lap or my desk. Only there are drawbacks to being a work-at-homer, kind of along the lines of "anything too good to be true usually is."

Like when you realize your home is your office so there's no leaving work at work. I'm envious that Ed gets to put being a software engineering team manager out of his head once he drives out of the company lot. Once he's kicking back on the sofa in front of the widescreen, he's ready to chill (unless it's the weekend, and the list of chores on the fridge is making him cross-eyed).

When I'm on deadline for a first draft, revisions, copy-edits, whatever, my work is constantly calling to me, 24/7. I don't get to turn it off, shift "job" to another part of my brain, and relax. I know that everytime I walk upstairs past my office, there's more to be done. So I frequently find myself saying, "I just need to write for a bit," and I'll disappear for hours. It's no wonder I sometimes forget what day of the week it is since I'm often at the keyboard pounding away even on weekends.

Oh, yeah, and there's that lovely side effect of home-as-office which awards the lucky work-at-homer the opportunity to wait on and (for lack of a better word) supervise every repairman and delivery. So, let's say, when it's time for an AC check and the dude "will arrive sometime between eight and noon" or the new dishwasher is coming "anytime next Thursday," yep, yours truly gets to meet-and-greet. It's hard to write when someone's installing an appliance, which entails a good amount of banging noises and switching off of electrical circuits. I can't seem to get deeply into a scene when a stranger in my house keeps calling, "Ma'am?" from downstairs. Even on no-repairman days, there are always loads of laundry, vacuuming, mopping, trips to the grocery store and bank, and other miscellaneous chores that fall to me. I do try to squeeze in the treadmill occassionally, too, even if it's the middle of the afternoon. More often than not, the doorbell rings right after I've stepped out of the shower, and it's the UPS guy. I've actually signed for packages with a towel wrapped around my middle and one hastily wound around my dripping head. (Well, like that old Wells Fargo Wagon song from "Music Man," it might be somethin' special just for me! Most recently, it was hot-off-the-press copies of LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS...Oooo!!!)

As for our cats sweetly purring in my lap as I type...ha! That's only in my husband's wild imagination. Usually, they're chasing each other around the house, howling and spitting as they fling themselves atop my desk and swat at each other, knocking papers to the floor and often stepping on various keys on my keyboard. Once Munch plopped down on the "Enter" key and suddenly a 10-page chapter turned into hundreds of blank pages. This weekend, Max hopped up and clicked the mouse with his paw, sending an email I was writing in reply to a blogger doing a contest for one of my books...before I'd half-finished it. Thanks, Maxwell.

It's a wonder anything ever gets done. Speaking of which, excuse me a minute while I dump another load in the washing machine, throw some clothes in the dryer, and let the plumber in. I have a feeling Munch and Max will attempt some very interesting revisions for me while I'm gone.

EXCITING NEWS: My second Debs novel, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS, will be released on June 9. I'm giving away five copies on my web site so drop by and enter!


  1. Ah, Susan. We live the same life. I do have a full-time job, so when I get to use my vacation days to work on the books, and I'm so looking forward to really powering through some pages--suddenly, I'm AVAILABLE.

    For fed ex, or the repair guy, as you say. When the phone rings. My dear and wonderful well-meaning next door neighbor says: oh, you're home working! Come have tea! And I think--ahh...please, leave me alone.

    ANd my adorable husband, whose footsteps I hear coming down the hall and try to ignore: he says: can you help me move the air conditioner? Or: how long do I cook the rice?
    I can feel my neck clench. And I even adore him!

    But--none of this is a complaint, really, It's wonderful. I'm so grateful to be able to do it. A dream come true. Don't you think?

    Can't wait to read your latest! xo

  2. Oh, Hank, that's exactly it! It's like working at home means you're not really working, and sometimes it's extremely hard to shut off the distractions and get any writing done. But, you're right, who's complaining? ;-)

  3. Like you, Susan, I'm home all day to work--and the work often entails far more than writing.

    On top of that, my hubby is here all day with me. Most of the time he has plenty to do without bugging me--though at times he'll come sit in the chair across from my desk and stare--until I finally ask what he wants. His answer is he was just waiting until I got to a stopping place. Uh huh.

    Yes, I love him and I couldn't do without him. He can do lots of things I can't.


  4. I have small children at home with me, and people assume that somehow I'm writing while watching the children. Not so! I'm sure some people write that way - the woman who writes those Twilight books claims to - but not me. When I'm with the kids, I'm with the kids. I need both quiet and decent stretches without interruption to get into a scene. So, like other authors with daytime jobs, I write in the middle of the night and other stolen moments.

    When my "baby" started nursery school twice a week, I discovered the truth of your complaint, Susan. It is SO HARD to keep those two mornings a week for nothing but writing, when it seems that there's always a dentist who can only see me then, or a meeting I simply must attend or a contractor who needs me nearby . . .

  5. Marilyn, that's definitely another challenge to working at home! ;-)

    Sarahlynn, I don't know how you find time to write at all with little kids! It's got to be tough, especially when so many other demands of real-life tug on you during any stolen time you find to write. So my hat's off to you, girl!

  6. Susan - I could have written this. I wish I *had* written this. I'm supposed to guest blog for you-all soon and now there's nothing left to say. ;-)

    Except: I love working at home and, like Hank, sometimes need to remind myself what a dream come true it is. Unfortunately, our house is falling apart bit by bit...I've taken to calling it Grey Gardens. And guess-who is the natural choice to deal with the repairmen. STILL...when all is said and done, I wouldn't change a thing.

  7. G.M, you're SO right about that! Being able to work at home is a dream. But if I didn't complain about the little stuff, what fun would that be? ;-) And sorry to steal your blog idea (dang it!). But I think you should write about living in Grey Gardens. That's a blog I want to read! Or maybe one about how awful AOL is (oh, wait, I think that's MY next blog). Just kidding. Maybe. Hope everyone is outside enjoying their Saturday...unless they're inside doing revisions, like me.