Lost in Bookland

One problem with working at home is it’s hard to tell when you’re finished.

In a regular work environment, you get a “job well done” or a slap on the back or a new assignment. If nothing else, your shift ends and you go home and try to not think about work for a while.

But when you work at home, the completion of each task merely calls attention to other looming deadlines and to the chores you’ve been ignoring. You’re still surrounded by housework and parenting and errands and the other parts of your “job” that never go away.

I, for one, don’t handle “down time” well. I seem to have two speeds: 1) flat-out, fast-as-I-can-go obsession, or 2) full idle, in which I don’t know what to do with myself. Switching back and forth makes me a little crazy.

Take, for example, those periods when I'm working on a new novel. I'm consumed by the story, barely in touch with the real world. Phone calls go unanswered. Familiar faces go unrecognized. My mind wanders during conversations.

My family has grown accustomed to this distracted condition. They call it Bookland. As in, “There’s no point talking to Dad right now. He’s in Bookland.”

Once I'm done, I emerge from my home office, blinking and scratching like Rip Van Winkle, and try to regain some focus on everyday reality. I usually find that, once again, my wife has kept the household running while I was in Bookland. A new season has arrived. My sons have grown taller.

You’d think I’d relax during this break, return to my senses, have some fun. Instead, I spiral right into the ground in a weird form of post-partum depression. I’ve given birth to a new story, and it’ll no doubt grow up to be a disappointment, no matter how much I rewrite and revise and mutter curses.

This would be the perfect time for a distraction, something to divert my attention away from my own navel. I cast about for a diversion, only to find that I have no interests or hobbies.

Household chores aren’t enough to keep my mind off work. I love to read, but end up comparing every book to the one I’m trying to write. I watch movies and see only the “bones” of the script. The Internet is just more time sitting at my desk.

I’m too fat and injury-prone for sports. Too impatient to go fishing. I haven’t ridden a bike since I learned to drive. I could take a real vacation, I suppose, but traveling is expensive and I travel too much for work already.

Other people have hobbies that take up their free time. But I’m not interested in collecting anything (except books) and I have no expertise or equipment for craft projects. Painting? There’s a mess to clean up. Pottery? Ditto. Woodworking? No, thanks, I need all my fingers for typing.

So I wander around the house, mumbling and overeating and watching inane TV, until it’s time to go back Bookland, a place of my own invention, where I know everyone’s name.


Life without Clots said...

Or a kick in the butt...that was my best reward for a job well done.

Patty said...

Get a Wii - at least you can waste time watching tv and do something as well (I'm also too fat and too clumsy), somehow the Wii makes it all fun!