Working from home. It seems to be the goal of every entrepreneur-want-to-be in America. Oh the freedom of being able to make our own decisions, set our own schedules and make our own rules. Could anything be so empowering or fulfilling?!
In the fall of 1996 I made the move. I left the day-to-day, workaday world to try the work at home thing for myself. I claimed one of the 4 bedrooms in our home and set up my studio. A few build-it-yourself desks and cabinets. A new office chair. A couple computers, a phone and an ISDN connection to the Internet. (Do they even HAVE those anymore?) I could hardly wait to start my first day! I stayed in my sweats and slippers (just because I could) and turned up my music and reveled in not having to answer to anyone. It was quite the head rush.
It seemed that I was wired to work from home alone. And for a time, it was pretty sweet. I was able to concentrate better and get more done in less time. There were no distractions. No one dropping in to say hi or chat about the weekend. I could stay focused on the work, talk on the phone when necessary and do most of my communicating through email. The time flew by as my workdays grew longer and my night times grew shorter. I was in the groove. This went on for over 4 years.
I’ll never do that again.
After the newness wore off, things began to change. My productivity declined. My creative muscles seemed fatigued as generating new ideas became more of a chore than a delight. The workload was a never-ending burden that would keep me in my chair from early morning until late in the evening. I was working 18-hour days and most weekends. The very thing I thought would bring me ultimate freedom was beginning to feel more like a prison. Like solitary confinement. I had become more and more reclusive (which is hard to do with a wife and four active children!). It led to depression, declining physical health and an apathy about life.
Yay American dream!
After those 4 years, the agency I had worked for prior to heading out on my own, asked if I’d like to come back. I jumped at the chance. I was done with being alone everyday. I was hungry for people. I was starving for conversation and the sharing of ideas. Within 2 weeks I was feeling better. I was involved, engaged and energized. My work began to improve and the act of creating became fun again.
Human beings were meant for community. You’ve heard it takes a village to raise a child? Well I’m here to tell you, it takes a village to keep you sane. Especially for those of us who create for a living. Our ideas are better when we can bounce them off each other. Our ability to solve problems is bolstered by sharing it with others—getting someone else’s unique perspective. The creative process is about differing points of view colliding together to make NEW, unimagined possibilities. Compromise is a good thing.
beCONNECTED! reminds us that no artist, or idea, is an island. We are better artists—better people—when we engage with each other. I still enjoy the quiet and find refreshment when I’m alone. But I now know that my connection to the world around me is literally my creative life blood.
For more on beCONNECTED!, checkout my book, Burnout Sucks!