Navigating Working From Home as a Writer During COVID-19

Nonfiction by day. Fiction by night. This is how I’ve seen myself for several years – almost as two separate people. Definitely as two separate writers who sometimes converge in unusual ways or places.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, it was easier to separate the two. I would leave the house and go to my office during the day. At night, I would go to my home office and do my personal writing. Obviously that’s no longer an option. While we’re all sheltering in place and practicing safe social distancing, my home office is my work office and who knows when things will get back to some semblance of “normal”?

The need to separate my work writing life and my home writing life is still there. And it’s incredibly important. My work writing is yoked to the voice of an institution (and I don’t use the word yoked to paint this in a negative light. But, when you write for an organization, you write as that organization). It’s scientific in nature and it’s truthful. It can be artistic in some ways. But, the artistry of it is philanthropic and not literary. It’s not the writing I do at home. My personal writing is much freer because it is my voice – my voice completely unmasked. I am free to let my imagination soar and roam and I am not bound by rules or gravity or anything else save for what I can dream up. Given that these two very different types of writing are happening in the same space, I have to find a way to transition from one self to the next without the luxury of changing locations. Here’s how I do that.

First, I’ve taken some advice from a good friend of mine who was working from home several days a week while also working on a master’s degree. She advised me to put away all working materials in a box and close it at the end of the day. Laptop, notebook, calendar (I like paper calendars still and supplement that with my digital stuff) and even pens. I don’t have a box to put things in. But, I do take everything and put it on a low-lying shelf. Out of sight. Out of mind.

Then, I leave the room. I turn off the light and walk away. I do something else for a while. Read. Whatever. Sometimes I even take a shower and change my clothes (I shower regularly of course, but not always as a way to make this work to personal writing transition). I’m not wearing work clothing right now at all (who is?). Just sweats and leggings and workout gear. But, even transitioning to a new set of clothes, especially after a shower, has really helped me to reset myself and change my frame of mind to be better prepared for my fiction writing. It’s almost like that decompression stage you go through when you are commuting to and from the office. You have time to gear down from the day and transition to your home self or life. It’s also very reminiscent of my normal routine. I don’t wear my work clothes once I get home. I always change into something different, though I didn’t think about it in terms of transitioning from work to home. It was more about comfort then.

After I’m finished with my personal writing for the day, I then do the reverse. I put away my personal laptop and pull out my work one and get the space set up for work for the next morning.

Finding balance between work and home is important, perhaps even more so now that more of us are finding ourselves working for our paychecks from home in the spaces where our creative projects typically reign supreme. This routine has been very helpful to me as I’ve navigated this new territory and way of life. I hope sharing it with you will help you as you find your own new routine. How have you been handling the infiltration of your work life on your home life? Please share any tips you have in the comments!

Stay safe and healthy, friends!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels