Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Home Bound

It has been a week exactly since I exited the corporate world for the excitement and financial insolvency of self-employment. It has been an exceedingly rewarding week that, in retrospect, seems to have fitted into at least a month of normal time: time passes quite differently when you spent the vast majority of it within the confines of your own home. I had been in this position before: for seven years, I was a college composition instructor and aside from the times I was in the classroom, the bulk of my work was done at home. Upon giving notice at my job last week, I was rather surprised at how easily I slipped back into the patterns of working at home. However, this particular venture has involved me converting a hobby into a career, a noble and envious position, but one that is not without its drawbacks.

For those of you who have not had the experience of working from home before, I hereby offer you a list of some of the positive and negative aspects culled from my own experiences.

- Freedom of scheduling: this, for me, involves rising at 5:00 am and sitting down at my computer to start my day before 7:00 am, long before most mortals are stirring to life.
- Clean house: I think best on my feet and since writing requires constant mental gymnastics, quite an enormous amount of my work time is spent while my hands are busy with dishes or a broom and my mind is chewing meditatively over a sticky plot issue.
- Naps: Oh lovely, fabulous, sweet naps. I surrendered to the sweet embrace of a nap just an hour ago and passed a blissful thirty minutes floating cozily in that dreamworld between sleep and consciousness, letting my mind adrift to whatever happenstance whiff of fancy passed by. This lasted until my untroubled consciousness began refocusing itself on its task at hand and interrupted my sweet rest with insistent barkings that I return to work.
-  Basset Hounds. This fat, fuzzy fellow here adores sleeping on my feet and keeping my toes warm with his long ears. I sincerely love spending the work day with him asleep under my desk, his head propped up on the printer.

- Off peak hours: No more the madness of trying to rush to the bank after work or arranging for a half day off so I can get to the DMV. When one works from home, one can complete necessary chores at times that the rest of the city is not doing so. This morning, I was sharing Panera with a clutch of white-haired seniors past retirement age and the normally full store had plenty of seating available for us all.
- Gas savings. I spent almost two years driving approximately 90 minutes a day and every three days saw me at the gas station. Today my car has just under 1/5 of a tank left and the last time I put in gas was on Friday. This is such a novel concept I am half afraid I am going to drive my car until it sputters and dies from lack of fuel just to see how conceivably long I can go without filling up again.

However, everything is not rainbows and unicorn farts - working at home on a hobby-based career does have its drawbacks, chiefly which are....

- Isolation: When your office is three steps from your bedroom, you have little reason to mingle with the greater world outside and find yourself going stir-crazy quite frequently. The Panera trip today was borne out of the desperate realization that I was going to go quietly mad if I spent another long day at home. $4.32 for a bagel and coffee was a small price to pay for being surrounded with people noises and the cheerful bustle of human beings.
- Devolution: There is an exceedingly great temptation for the stay-at-home worker to degenerate to a level of proto-human, wandering around the house in old pyjamas or nothing at all, picking thoughtfully at your toenails with a butter knife you just used to make a sandwich and which still has the remnants of peanut butter sticking to it, subsiding off a diet of Doritos and Cheese Whiz squirted directly into your mouth, forgoing showers and all basic grooming for days on end. To combat this urge, I do not allow myself to fire up my computer for the day unless I've gone to the gym, eaten breakfast, walked the dog, made the bed, read my Bible, and showered. Otherwise a very few weeks may find me a Nutella-besmeared blob of unwashed flesh and greasy hair who only communicates in grunts.
- Boredom - Turning a beloved hobby into a career is a dream of many. However, one of the unsavory drawbacks to doing so is that you can quickly start to despise said hobby. Not to mention that when you spend all day trying to get your hobby to earn you money, you are somewhat at a loss of what to do when the workday is over. I have a flood of other writings to work on but a distinct disinclination to spend all evening doing what I just did all day.

On a different, more steampunk note, a friend of mind was telling me about the triple point of water: this is a state of thermodynamic marvel when H2O exists in steam, liquid, and ice form. This has marvelous steampunk possibilities, and I have been toying with ideas all morning. Say, hypothetically, an airship who is being assailed by an attacking airship, wouldn't it be useful if they could somehow convert the steam in the attacking ship's airbags into water or ice through some technological wonder? Anybody know anything more about this triple point concept or have ideas about its various steampunk applications?
Twitter @Melissa_Conroy


  1. That's a great idea, turning airbags into water or ice. I'll be mulling over possible applications.

    Also, this is a ways off but thought you might like the info: this guy has done a very detailed, interesting “survey” as he calls it of markets to help new writers. It is stunningly long.

  2. It's funny that you've come across this topic now, as I recently came into possession of a part of a freeze drying machine, and in the course of researching it in order to sell it, learned something about the triple-point concept. Wikipedia has very good entries for both triple point itself, and freeze drying, in which the triple point is critical. If you have not read the wikipedia entry, I would strongly suggest it. It has a chart specifically for water (all materials have triple points, but water is most useful for your book).

    I...don't want to be throwing wet blankets on the creative process, but I honestly, from my understanding of it, do not think the triple point is particularly useful with relation to steam powered airships, either their operation or their combat. The notion of freezing the steam does not need to involve the triple point at all.

    I can go into more detail of why I believe this, but it would be somewhat involved, and I don't want to be a windbag, unless you'd really like to hear the details.