Shouldn’t You Be Writing?

Let’s talk today about working from home.

(Bonus content:  I have a sinus infection and wrote this while grumpy.  See if you can pick out the part where I get derailed by wracking coughs of mucus dislodgment, and spiral into disconnected griping.)

I’m nowhere near the first person to attempt working from home.  It’s getting somewhat common.  So there’s voluminous information about the potential pitfalls and glorious benefits of it.  Back when I was externally (and gainfully) employed, I researched this information in depth.  I thought I was pretty much prepared for what it would mean and what was to come.

When I quit my job last summer, my main thoughts about time management had to do with Kidlet1 and Kidlet2. Summer beak, they were home all day. Once school started, they’d be out of the house from 9:10 in the morning until anywhere from 3:30 to 6:30, depending. That’s a solid 6 hours-9 hours of writing, right?

Oh, universe, must you mock me *so* hard for my hubris and naivete?

I factored in that after so many years of giving up sleep to work, to commute, to parent, I would need time to blow off steam. I assumed I would fart around for a month or three, sleeping long hours, playing video games, and dabbling at writing without earnestly getting into it.

And for the most part, that did happen.

But so much more did. Oh so very much more.

There have been illnesses, meetings with teachers and school administrators, class trips and class parties. There’s been extended-family obligations, identity theft, house crises, pet crises, and health crises. There has not been a single week so far since August where I haven’t had to spend at least 2 full days on putting out fires.

Unrelated Public Service Announcement – get working Carbon Monoxide detectors. Do it now.

I have the ominous feeling that if I hadn’t quit when I did for the sake of switching careers, I would have had to quit just to keep the flowing torrents of shit at bay. With just the bare minimal necessities of what I’ve faced over the past nine months, there’s no way I could have done a normal 9-5 job without getting fired.

I tell you all this neither to bring the drama, nor to cry out for attention or pity. Woe is decidedly not me. I do it to ask all the other work-from-home people – is it always like this? How do you deal with it all? Was the world falling apart this badly even before, but I just ignored it because I had to in order to leave the house?

Also – as for that 6 hours of writing from 9:10 to 3:30. Ha!

That’s just when kidlet2 gets to school. kidlet1 goes anytime between 8am and 11am, depending on what extracurricular activity we have scheduled or illness come down with. Then there’s my overworked, overstressed, underappreciated, and stretched-too-thin wife to help out the door.  Most days I’m up and running at full speed from 6:30 to 10:30 getting everyone out the door. Then, I can have a little breakfast, sit, catch my breath. If at this point I lie down to close my eyes, I wake up at 2:45, just enough time to lunch, shower, dress, and hop over to the school and retrieve the kidlets.

If instead of conking out I attempt to write, I’m still in the stage where it takes a good 2-3 hours to focus my attention on the project at hand and get into a mindset where the words – at this point still just the mediocre ones – begin to flow. Oh, and there’s still lunch and shower and picking up the kidlets.

After they come home, there’s dinner to plan, cook, and serve, riding roughshod over the kidlets to get their homework done, getting them to bed, and decompressing from the day with lovely conversation with my wife.

This doesn’t even touch on the pitfalls that people actually warn you about. The advice you get from other writers, from bloggers, from basically anybody I’ve read from, spoken to, or listened to. “Make sure people recognize that you’re not *staying at home*, you’re *working from home*. Don’t let them expect you to spend all day doing the laundry, cleaning the house, and running errands. You have a job too. Just because you are in the house doesn’t mean you don’t have to be at your desk bleeding all over your keyboard.” (I’m paraphrasing here. A direct quote would have to have included the phrases “lounging about the house like an oaf”, “eating bon-bons”, and “doing the damn dishes.”)

Let me be clear – I’m not saying my friends and family are expecting that of me.  This isn’t a Mr. Mom scenario where I’ve got nothing else to do all day and let myself go with soap operas and coupon poker with Ann Jillian.  I’m pointing out that this minefield has been lain before by the loved ones of many who have trodden similar paths, and they expect no less of my journey than a shared trail of hardship.

And then I get well-meaning emails and texts from friends saying, “How’s the writing coming?” or “How many stories have you written yet?” Or the best – comments on almost any Facebook post I make saying, “Shouldn’t you be writing?” Honestly, people, I love you. But shut up.

Here I Go,


About Matthew Shean

Matthew Shean is the author of several forthcoming novels and myriad short stories. He received his Ph.D. from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York, NY, and spent 20 years as a research scientist throughout the northeastern United States. He now lives in Long Island (against his will), with his loving family and disdainful cats.
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