A few months ago, a FedEx man came to my door to deliver an important document. It was an updated version of my mother’s will, which she had warned me would be arriving for me to review. I was convinced she had decided to leave her entire estate to her dog, Winston, a self-absorbed Airedale Terrier my mother feeds directly from the table, so I was in no rush to read the bad news. When I signed for the delivery, the FedEx man gave me a sorrowful frown and said, “I hope you feel better soon.” At first I thought he had somehow predicted the contents of the envelope and was expressing his condolences. But then I realized I was standing at my doorway at three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon wearing pajamas, a silk robe, Nike sneakers, and sporting a hairstyle widely known as “bed head.” As he climbed the steps to his truck I yelled after him: “I’m not sick. I work from home.”
The life of a stay-at-home writer is not for everyone. It requires exceptional strength of character and an extraordinary amount of self-discipline. There is no eagle-eyed supervisor watching to make sure you are at your desk at an appointed time. There are no judgmental coworkers whispering behind your back about your greasy hair, three-day stubble, and general lack of hygiene. And there is no human resources department informing you that your sense of humor is offensive and that the three-martini lunch is a relic of the past. In short, you are your own boss. And whether or not you decide to actually do any work, or shower, or put on clothes, or drink Bloody Marys out of a Tervis tumbler while responding to the morning’s emails, is completely up to you.
But there are downsides, as well. Working from home can be a very lonely existence. Sometimes a week can go by in which I don’t leave the house. Sometimes I strike up a conversation with the mailman just for the opportunity to speak face-to-face with someone. And sometimes I decide working on my short game or alphabetizing my spice rack is more pressing than finishing an overdue article or rewriting a chapter of a book. If I’m not careful, laziness and complacency can overtake me, and happy hour can be easily rescheduled from 5 p.m. to 1:30.
Despite the pitfalls of working at home, I somehow manage to keep my head above water. And now whenever I’m tempted to procrastinate or answer the early afternoon call of the liquor cabinet, I picture a smirking Airedale named Winston and remind myself that my financial future is entirely up to me.