Full Time Writer and More Time Happy

After months of travel, it’s beginning to sink in that I work at home full time now. Patterns and trends are emerging, and they are mostly positive.

First, I’m on nobody’s clock but my own. If I had a bad night of sleep, I don’t have to show up at 9 am pretending that I’m hitting on all eight cylinders. I work according to my circadian rhythm, which means there’s a slump right after lunch which is best used for walking, puttering, or doing admin work. The post lunch slump is a universal human characteristic (with some individual variation), but I defy you to find the traditional US employer who acknowledges it.

Second, my work environment is set up to accommodate me and what I do for a living. When I hit the end of a scene, I can walk a thousand steps on the tread desk, play a couple games of hearts while I do, and then get back to work. That’s a ten minute break that feels like a break, and yet, is good for me and my productivity. Out in the big world, many employers will penalize people for “idling,” (Amazon’s term, as if we are engines rather than people) or even taking too long to use the jakes.

Third, I am set up to be at my most productive. I do better creative work in play clothes, not courtroom attire. Comfy socks are a must for me, and I do not like to fuss with my hair, ever. At the law office, I was always compromising between “you are judged for your appearance, counselor,” and, “I’m just as qualified in flats as I am in heels.”

Fourth, the balance of meaningful and unmeaningful tasks has shifted toward the more meaningful. The taxpayer’s coin should never be wasted, but all those time sheets I filled out were virtually un-auditable. I could put any old thing down I pleased (in theory), so the exercise was one of appearing accountable while in fact not being accountable. That strikes me as not only stupid but misleading.

At home, the work I do supports me and my loved ones, and–I hope–it makes my readers happy. That’s really meaningful in a direct, immediate way. It’s not busy work dumped on me to keep the whole food chain looking more honest than it is.

Fifth, I have much more control over who is in my day. I’ll just leave that one there…

What strikes me about these gains is that they used to be normal. Most of us worked at or near home until the industrial revolution. We didn’t jump in the car to battle traffic so we could spend most of our waking hours far from loved ones, working by a rulebook we did not help write. What we think is normal now–working away from home, following the rules in the employee handbook, accommodating somebody else’s clock, thermostat, dress code, and calendar–isn’t set up to get the best out of us.

And for most of my working life, I questioned none of this. I was just grateful to be able to pay my bills and sleep in on a rare Saturday. I can see now I wasn’t as smart, productive, happy, or efficient as I could have been.

But I’m happier now. How have you bent the rules, colored outside the lines, or applied creativity to make the work-life work for you? If you are retired or working at home, are you happier? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of My One and Only Duke (which launches TUESDAY!!!!).

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43 comments on “Full Time Writer and More Time Happy

    • For me too, but I do not miss the courtroom. I miss being, Grace Burrowes, Big Bad Litigator, but what was that all about, except a need on my part for external validation. I’ll take the company of my readers over that any day.

  1. I’m still studying ;-P But I think I prefer going to work with more or less fixed hours… I believe or rather I know I would have a hard time getting myself to work at home instead of reading or doing something else
    But I also think everything depends on whether you enjoy what you are doing, no matter where…

    • Gallup did a poll back in the 2012 that crossed something like 140 countries… the results suggest about 13 percent of us love our jobs, another twenty percent don’t mind them, but the majority of us hate our jobs. We’re either not engaged with our work at all, or we’re actively trying to sabotage our employers. That bumfuzzled me.
      As an employer, I want anybody on my payroll to be happy there, and for their set-up to be as accommodating as I can make it.

  2. It’s great that working from home works for you but it doesn’t for everyone. I actually need to know that I’m accountable to someone for my time and work. If I worked from home I would find a million other little things to do before I sat down and got to work.

    • I wonder about that.
      If almost everybody worked from home, and your work was meaningful to you, your norms would probably be different. Most of us grew up watching mom and/or dad “go off to work” in the morning, and so we think that’s how it was always done.
      It wasn’t.
      What studies we have suggest that working from home we’re MORE efficient than we are in an office. That said, I’m sure there are people who are not a good fit with work-at-home parameters. If nothing else, you have to be a lot more vigilant about creating the boundary between on and off the clock, or you can be on the clock all the time just as easily as you can be off of it.

  3. If only the industrialized world understood this. Although, to a point, some companies are coming to realize that, not only are employees more productive in settings other than cubicles, they are happier, healthier, and make fewer errors.

    I work for a health insurance company, which has, in recent years, sent a large portion of its workforce to be work from home. Including me. I wasn’t sure about doing it, in the beginning, but now realize how much better a little less structure is for me. (I am VERY tightly wound as far as humans go.) Plus, I don’t have to comb my hair, put on any makeup, dress in more than sweats and a T-shirt. It’s glorious.

    • Don’t get me started on the “open office,” which is one of the biggest productivity fails out there, but it reduces HVAC costs and makes its easier for the boss to control worker privacy. And then there’s “hot desking,” which brilliant idea belong in some circle of cyber-hell reserved for people who think IT should rule the world…

  4. I worked in banking for 12 twelve years and loved the interaction with people. I did have set hours and was expected to dress appropriately, but I never felt judged. I left the business world to raise my sons. I loved every minute of it. It was hard work with round the clock duties, but my husband and boys always let me know how much they appreciated what I did for them. When my youngest entered high school I went back to work. I was an office secretary for a water company located on a beach! The hours were set, the view was gorgeous and once again, the interaction with customers was engaging. I retired(from my day job) to help take care of my mother-in-law, who was a wonderful woman. Unfortunately, she passed this past September and my husband and I are trying to adjust. We are now empty-nesters as both boys are employed as engineers in other states and we don’t get to see them very often. I have joined a group called “The Joy Committee” and we rescue dogs from shelters to find fur-ever homes for them, feed the homeless and gather Christmas gifts for needy children. I am enjoying being retired although I still wake up some mornings thinking “What time is it and am I going to be late”. I am an avid reader and really enjoy your books! One of my favorites is Darius. I just loved that story! I look forward to reading more of your books!

    • Carmen, what a lovely way to make sure that empty nest is full of love!
      I’m an introvert, so “human interaction” for me, even with my favorite people in the whole world, is tiring… and I don’t have a lot of favorite people. I know for an extrovert, days of solitude would be a horrendous drain, and working from home would probably be more burden than benefit.
      Different strokes.

    • Isn’t it interesting, that when you have control over more of your time, you procrastinate less? I’m getting around to some actual housework these days, and because those tasks aren’t piled on top of a lot of errands, office-work, and self-denial, it’s not onerous.

    • You are in a lucky minority, if you love your job.
      I don’t think anybody wakes up one day and thinks, “I want a steady diet of child abuse cases for my job!!!” But it was meaningful, honorable work. I don’t regret that career.
      But I like this one lots better!

  5. First, Congratulations on your retirement!! It sounds like you are living your dream and have worked the kinks out of a daily routine.

    I retired Dec 31st last year after 30 years working as a librarian/manager in public libraries. I am still working out a morning routine and reading a book titled, “My Morning Routine,” to get some ideas on how to loosely block out my days to feel more productive. Only I can decide the best routine for me, but interesting to see what works for others.

    I envy that you have a passion and skill/gift that also provides additional income to your pension. I need to score a part-time job to supplement my pension for at least the next nine years and I’m determined to find a job where I can use my librarian skill set (or my hobbies) and also have fun I’ll eventually find it. I feel like I’m a freshman in college again and still trying to figure out what I want to do the rest of my life. At least I am in a financial position where I can walk away and find something else if I find myself in a job just doesn’t fit.

    I’m so glad you are happier now and I must say that I am happier too. I’m looking forward to new adventures!

    • Somebody told me, “Be sure you retire TO something…” But then, I have a full time writing job. It’s not retirement, it’s simply cutting loose the less lucrative second job. As a single self-employed mom, I wasn’t able to do much in the way of setting aside retirement assets. Writing has allowed me to address that problem somewhat, but then, both of my parents lived into their nineties. I think I’d better keep writing…

  6. Welcome back – I’ve missed the blog. I am really looking forward to reading Quinn’s tale after meeting him in two other stories. Forced retirement was very hard, especially for someone who has planned out their finances and home mortgage to coincide with retirement at the normal age of 66+. The other side of the coin is no more 5:30 a.m. alarm clock going off, no white knuckle driving downtown during snowstorms, no more outside consultants, vendors, attorneys,and clients to placate. So, all in all, I’m much happier.

  7. Knowing I could retire if I wanted to on my next birthday gets me through the workday. Of course, I’m not going to since I’d be hurting myself and my family financially but the thought sure is nice. I have one child in college, will wait until he is done and (hopefully) employed.

    • It’s a trade off–freedom and security.
      I ran across one older social worker who said something to me like, “I don’t care if I have to live on peanut butter and celery. The DAY I’m eligible to walk out, I’m done. I’m gone. I’m so ready to leave this place…”
      I realized I did not have that degree of clarity about preferring the writing job, or I would have parted with that law practice a few years earlier.

  8. I’ve found a flexibility in college teaching that works well for me. I’m not forced to work closely with difficult people for years on end — I get new students every semester. I can work at home, in the coffee shop, in the office, and no one but me worries about how much time I spend where. Vacation flexibility is also a plus. On the dark side, of course, is precarity. Every so often, I squeeze a little extra time out of my day to read a really great historical romance novel.

  9. I am a musician, which means when I am not out performing, I am usually at home practicing or teaching or rehearsing with others at home or at a venue. I also write program notes for various performing arts organizations and that’s a *do at home* activity.

    I am lucky this has been my profession for most of my life, except for the five years I worked in my husband’s medical practice at the front desk when he needed someone. It was when he first bought the practice, so he needed someone he could trust and was cheap–that was me! I liked it but was always grateful to know it was temporary. It also gave me a realistic view of our *family business*.

    I have found there I have to let family and friends know just because I work from home, I am not available all the time. My adult kids know when they should not call me or expect an immediate response from a text. I will also let them know if something changes and there is a different time than usual. They understand because they’ve lived it with me. My In-Laws, not so much!

    I’ve never been a *9 to 5er* so this is normal for me!

    Happy it’s working out for you too, Grace!

  10. Welcome to the joyous world of self employment! Start adding in healthy nosebags to fuel your creativity and energy while the stress of years continues to bleed away and you’ll wonder why you ever waited so long. No more fitting creation into the dregs of your day to accommodate the ungrateful and unenlightened.

    Scritch the fur balls hello and glory in the fabulous stories you’ll write now you can pick up and travel to inspirational places when it best suits your production. Can’t wait to read the goodies you’ll churn out.

  11. Welcome Back!

    I know you will enjoy working at home. You will be able to devote yourself to your writing and find time to read and relax. You gave a lot of yourself to your job- enjoy this time you deserve it.

    Loved the Christmas story and that Gayle and Anna were featured. Thank you!
    Can’t wait for my Amazon book box this week.

  12. I worked for 15 years and an hour commute each way. But lucky for me, my husband did most of the driving (or I took a bus which made for an even longer commute) so I got to read and listen to music or had his full attention lol. Then I stayed home for the next 30 plus years. I am now working part time, babysitting my grandson, and visiting my mom in assisted living. I went from being able to decide my time to having hardly any at all. Each has it’s advantages. I do feel like I’m accomplishing a lot more but I do miss those days sometimes. I guess you can never have it all.

  13. I’m glad for you, me, and the rest of your readers that you are writing full time and sad for the children of my state that they’ve lost a sensitive advocate (opinion based on my love of your portrayal of children in your books). I spent over 50 years in the full-time work force, questioned it’s structure throughout, was self-employed for some years but went back to the corporate rat race eventually (in the words of my son “You should get a salaried job because you’re not very good at asking people for money”) because it was necessary. I love being retired and spend much of my time reading, a rare luxury when I was working full-time (generally primary wage-earner), caring for a family and house. I coped with the rat race by being employed at not-for-profit companies where I felt my work was contributing to good in the community rather than just the profit of the rule-makers at the top.

  14. So good to have you back Grace … I have missed your thoughtful blog.

    I have been retired for about 10 years now, and I love it. But I loved my work life too. I worked in an office. I never worked from home. You mention some really good conveniences, so I think I would have done okay working from home. Every job I ever had called for self motivation, which I enjoyed. I never had a boss standing over my shoulder micro-managing me.

    What I would have missed though, was the socialization. I was blessed over the years to work with some really fun and funny people. Hardly a day went by that I didn’t have a good laugh. At least, when I look back, that is what I remember most.

    Looking forward to MY ONE AND ONLY DUKE.

  15. Just lovely to hear from you again and I’m so glad you have found your balance in your daily life now.I can remember when I retired officially(I mean giving up work entirely).How it took me ages to come to terms with not being needed and not being relied on to solve problems and queries anymore.Three years down the line I am in a beautiful place called contentment.I wake up and do or not do I decide if it’s going to be a busy productive day or a lazy one.Maybe I’ll have visitors maybe not.But one thing for sure is that I am now a truly wound down human being with free time and not a hint of boredom so far!!.May you continue your enjoyment of writing and keeping your many fans happy.But also remember to give yourself free time with no pressures.

  16. Some serious food for thought! I turned 50 this year and am questioning my corporate career. I don’t fight traffic (made that change, at least, years ago to a local company). But the daily grind, long hours & stress are just not what I want anymore. Planning a 6-month break next year to travel & figure out the next chapter!

  17. Oh your story rings so many bells! I stayed working because bills, doing work that was at best an awkward fit, for many more years than I should. Only a chronic condition finally pushed me to consider retirement and I’m now much, much happier *and* healthier, mostly because I can rest as needed. And I can expend my energy making, instead of squishing my joy into tiny corners (recognising I am fortunate to be able to just about live on my company pension).

  18. Congratulations on your retirement. I will retire when all of my children and grandchildren have learned to manage their various medical issues on their on. Mind you, I am not complaining, I get very good quality time with them. It is interesting what they say when traveling in the car. Retirement is spending time reading your books and ones by other authors. Yours are the most eagerly awaited as I like your writing style best. The mix of romance and mystery is excellent.

  19. I was laid off due to outsourcing/offshoring & didn’t want to stay on that corporate treadmill (& my Dad was slowing down & having more issues). For a while I called my self unemployed, but now go with ‘retired’. I’ve always seemed to accomplish more if I have a lot to do, but since that is now all (or mostly) under my control, I give myself assignments. I have the never ending ‘to do’ list, that I love to cross things off of. Those are the one off or occasional things like get a flu shot, take a load of stuff to a charity shop or the recycle center, sew a new edging on a blanket (did that today) – I love to cross them off the list. I also allow myself to stay in my robe all day if I don’t have to go out & it’s a chilly gray day. I’m looking forward to even more of your books, assuming you’ll be able to finish each one sooner?

  20. Congratulations on your transition to happy full time writer, Grace! I’ve had both work on site and work at home jobs – I’m currently employed in a work on site position and while I check emails when I’m at home, I cannot do my job from home – managing a retail location works that way. However, with my different work at home positions, my productivity depended primarily on how much I enjoyed each job. I do enjoy my job a great deal and am currently frustrated because I cannot physically do my job full time. I am lucky that my bosses are very understanding.

  21. I was a nurse for 40 plus years. Not many ways to bend the rules there. I’m retired now and take care of my grandson. I love that so much!

  22. I work a traditional day, but my husband does not. He stays home with two very spoiled cats, we also adopted two male adult dogs in August. So he is busy in a good way. He can do some work on his computer and then take a break and play with the cats and dogs. That type of day works much better for him.

  23. Yay for you! You’ve discovered the joy of “retirement”!!! Most of us are locked into our jobs by economic reasons. One may have chosen a field for the love of it (like I did for teaching) but it becomes the daily drudge after a certain point. Few of us can just up and quit or leave….too many obligations to meet. The main one: survival. Oh, you can change jobs, but it is always more of the same ole same. Ain’t nobody gonna pay me to be crafty or write or needlework!!!! Hope this newfound independence means the stream of product will accelerate. It is so hard to wait with bated breath for another installment in excellent reading, admidst the dross!

  24. I actually decided to wait a couple of extra years before retiring, because I find myself not being very focused when I’m home for a number of days in a row, and I enjoy the people I work with, so there’s a social aspect to it, too.

  25. Thank you for your acceptance of ‘down time’! I’ve been retired for 22 years, yet I still struggle with shoulds and musts. It’s a wrestling match I usually lose. Every so often I defiantly decide it’s time to retire to the bedroom and read. (I’m not trying to curry favor, but ‘Burrowes’ would be on the spine of my nook if it had one.) The latest book continued my day until right after the Red Sox won the pennant–I didn’t bother feel guilty about insomnia and finished it.

  26. I work from home and my coworkers are two house rabbits. I work around their schedule, or I get treated to mischievous behavior. I was working part time outside the house the summer my husband and I bought our house. When not on someone else’s clock, I was working on those tasks needed to make the house more comfortable. I was attempting these tasks in the midst of heat and humidity. I had gone from living in an air conditioned house to one without any. I was averaging about two hours of sleep a night. As the summer progressed, I would do some cleaning chores early and then would be coming up with ways to loiter in air conditioned public spaces. I wouldn’t cook, I just put out salad fixings and sandwich material. My husband would come home and see it and announce that he needed more food. We would get in the car and drive to a restaurant. He wouldn’t turn on the air conditioning in the car. His office temperature was set at sub arctic. When I asked to have the air conditioning turned on, I heard a lecture on how cold he was and how he needed to warm up. As the summer progressed, I would just turn the air conditioning on and he would turn it off. An argument then happened. Right there in the car. I not so nicely stated that I hardly ever was in any kind of air conditioning and I just wanted some when it was available. I barely made it through the hot weather without committing homicide. Air conditioning was installed the following spring. I am now in charge of the thermostat. We now have disagreements about what temperature the house is due to peri menopause. The rabbits have fur and don’t mind cooler temperatures. The husband is slowly learning to put on an extra layer or he will have to sleep with one eye open. I have a friend who is convinced her coworkers think she is crazy because her sweater goes on and off several times during a meeting and many more times during the day. The only time I suffer now is during church. The choir is supposed to dress modestly (think nuns) and I am often marinating to satisfy the pew patrol.

  27. I only work part-time and the job is very accommodating of my desires, but I am soooooo looking forward to retirement! It’s a few years off yet, unfortunately, but I’ve already started on my ‘2nd’ career and hope to have a book or two – or four – either published or ready to publish, so I’m off and running the morning after my retirement party.

    I often wondered how you juggled your day job and were still able to write/publish so many wonderful stories! Yours are books I read over and over again. I particularly love that your men are so free with their physical affection with one another, without losing one ounce of their masculinity. That they can be vulnerable and strong at the same time. I’ve experienced many of those not-necessarily-firing-on-all-eight-cylinder mornings because I stayed up way too late reading the latest Grace Burrows release.

    Thank you for the gifts you impart to us readers so regularly and the time you spend crafting them as well! Any chance you would consider doing your writing seminar somewhere here in Maryland? I want to go to Scotland, but that’s probably another retirement dream.

  28. Hello Grace,
    It takes one to know one…I can see your lawyer training in your blog. Using words like first, second, third etc and organizing your ideas in a linear process is so lawyerly. Also, your ability to analyze the reasons and use background research to support your conclusions is telling. I love it and I still do it myself even though retired from law practice now since 2011. Your writing style appeals because you carry the reader forward into the story line inexorably in a barely discernible step by step process. You have beautifully combined the creative with the analytical in your life and writing. Keep on doing it!
    Best regards.