Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Office Away From Home

Before I get distracted (again) by emails, promo, and my latest book, I thought I'd tell you about my new office away from home.
Ever since my DH lost his job, I lost my peace and quiet, not to mention time in my home office. He follows me everywhere out of boredom when he's not actively looking for work. Needless to say, my writing has slowed to a crawl despite my ever-increasing "talks" with him about leaving me alone for a few hours.
Desperation began to seep into my brain. Crazy schemes like drugging him into somnolence, killing him and burying him under the vegetable garden, and booting him out of the house were hatched and discarded.
More viable plans like getting up early (my best bio-rhythm is for morning hours and working late at night is hopeless, trust me) failed. He'd awaken, feel the empty place next to him, and come find me!
I don't know about anyone else, but my income has been affected by the sluggish economy. I have to work to pay some of the bills. I can't just take time off. I have deadlines to make, but can't afford a leased office space, not even a shared one.
Finally, while watching a news story on how the city may have to close libraries if the current new mill levy (Yeah, I need my property taxes to rise by about $200 a year, you bastards!) it hit me-- library! Computers, air conditioning set to arctic, research materials at your fingertips, and QUIET!
I packed up my WIP, my Alphasmart, my workbook, and hopped in the car for the relatively short drive to the West Regional library. I made no bones about why I was going, either. Both my husband and daughter hung their heads in shame, and let me go. Ah, the freedom!
Oh, the air-conditioning! After the blazing heat of a Florida summer, the cool rush of air as the library doors snap open is more welcoming than a thousand hugs. Ah! I lugged in my briefcase, rejected the need for the computers, and marched all the way to the back of the library and plopped down at a table in the non-fiction section right between the "Aerobics" and "Classic Cars for Dummies."
After an hour of FINALLY doing the GMC tables for both of my characters, and revamping the plot chart I'd never been happy with, I pulled out the Alphasmart and typed until my hands cramped. (Only about 300 words, but hey, I'm happy.) Along the way, I made a few notes about things I'd bring next time, like a notepad, pencil (for plot notes), and to put my entire workbook on the flash drive in case I needed new sheets. It didn't matter. In an hour and a half of actual work time, I accomplished a great deal and proved that using the library worked for me as an office away from home. I'll be back on Monday, you betcha! I'd go today, but I have to teach a class today and tomorrow we have a family event in St. Augustine.  
Why this works for me:
1. I have to get dressed and "go to work" with a briefcase in my hand, just like the old days when I had a "real" job. The psychologically sets me up for a "workday" mindset. It's too easy to get sloppy about work habits when you work at home. Too many distractions, and the whole world thinks you're readily available for whatever they need.
2. Food and drink are limited in the library to the "cafe" area, which closely resembles the breakrooms found in corporate America everywhere. You have small tables and uncomfortable chairs, and vending machines loaded only with overpriced high-carb snack foods and carbonated beverages.
3. Same goes for the bathrooms. To go to the bathroom, you have to pack up and haul your stuff with you. Therefore, you schedule breaks more rigidly. "I'll just hold it a bit and finish this paragraph, then I'll take a comfort and coffee break..."
4. You have to turn the phone off or down. This is huge for me. I can't stand listening to a ringing phone, and my whole fam-damn-ily loves to call "for just a minute or two" in the middle of my workday. Hooray! I now have a legitimate excuse to turn the damn phone off or on vibrate. When it vibrates, I automatically look at the caller ID screen instead of flipping it open and answering. (Sorry Mom, leave me a voicemail. I'll get back to you after working hours, Kai-thanks-bai)
5. Scheduled hours-- The library here opens at 10 AM and closes at either 6 PM or 9 PM, depending on the day of the week. Sundays, it's closed. Therefore, I'm on a specific time limit. I can play at home on my computer, answering emails, doing my own darn promo, and other tasks with no guilt outside of my working hours. Real, honest-to-god office hours. Go to the library at 9:45 AM for the 10 AM opening, write for two hours, go home for lunch, and then do promo, other projects, or (gasp!) have a life in the afternoon.
6. No distractions like my piles of other projects. Okay, other than being in a building stuffed with books, audiobooks, ebooks, and DVDS. Yes, I'm as tempted as the next book geek. I'll still need to do those other projects, but after I've spent my time at the library.
7. No guilt. This is huge, too. I'll be "at work" and I can't be guilted into helping with yardwork, feeling like I should be cleaning or spending time with my family, and even my phone time will be restricted to the absolutely necessary.
So, for the rest of this weekend, I'll get ready for my day job, teach my class, cook the ham for the family reunion on Sunday, drive down to St. Augustine, and enjoy myself. If I get an opportunity to write, I will.
But I can't wait for Monday! I may do this even after DH has a job again.

Lena Austin

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