Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Step Away From The Computer

Sunday is supposed to be my husband’s day in the office. Time in the office has to be booked ahead because that’s where I work every day, and I get cranky about anyone bothering me while I’m working. When you work at home, you have to set very clear boundaries about your work hours/routines and what justifies an interruption. At my home, during my posted office hours, I am not to be interrupted except for valid reasons: compound fractures, excessive bleeding, dignitaries arriving unexpectedly, etc. Interruptions for other reasons aren’t tolerated so well. This is why we decided Sunday would be David’s day to take care of his paperwork. First, he protested about not getting office time during the week. Then he and my son told me they thought I should be barred from the office and the computer on Sunday. Completely.

At first, I thought this was vey sweet. They loved me so much that they didn’t want me to be in my office, away from them. Then I realized we don’t spend that much time together when I’m away from the office. In fact, they’re usually doing something and I’m… cleaning or cooking. My husband loves to build things and tinker in the garage and yard, and my son might be doing anything from playing video games to building Lego creations to helping Dad turn a pen on the lathe. I wasn’t telling them that they shouldn’t spend time doing what they wanted, but they objected to me being in my office, doing what I love to do. My initial feelings of flattery turned dark. What the heck was wrong with them?

I walked down the hall and asked my son, who was playing a video game, “So, if I’m not supposed to go in the office on Sunday, on what day are you not going to play video games?”

I immediately had his attention. He said, “What are you talking about?”

“This thing about me not going into the office on Sunday, that’s what I’m talking about. If I have to give up a day of writing, then you should give up a day of video games. And Dad should give up a day in the garage.”

“But that’s different! I like playing video games,” he said.

“Well, I like to write. When I’m in my office during the week, I might be doing anything. I’m not always writing.”

“I thought it was always work, so I thought you should take a break. Shouldn’t you have a day off?” he said. “I always thought it was stuff you had to do, not anything you wanted to do.”

I spend a lot of time doing all sorts of things in my office that involve writing, but that are not the kind of writing I yearn to do. I spend hours looking for work, researching topics, submitting proposals, editing, and other writing-related tasks—none of which are the wide-open, blank Word screen that I long for. If my son thought I was doing something I didn’t want to do in my office, what did that say? I realized that I’d let the business side of things overshadow the value of my writing. I like being a writer, but I don’t want my writing to always be work.

That afternoon, I found a way to hook up my laptop and write in the backyard. I made sure to enjoy the bird song and my blank screen, and I wrote about whatever I wanted. No one had objections to letting me work—oops, I mean, write, that day.
Photo courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski at

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