veronikavinyl said: Ann Friedman, you're clearly amazing. How do you stay productive while writing/working from home? I saw one of your pie charts showing that you don't always wear pants while working, so I'm assuming you work from home a lot. How does a freelance writer stay on task at home instead of taking pictures of their cat constantly? Thank you for your help (I'm definitely, totally not procrastinating right now)
I don’t have a cat. And I have never once felt the urge to photograph someone else’s cat. So I’m starting from a very privileged position.
If I’m not being productive at home, sometimes I will put on pants and venture out into the world. Changing venues can help. Coffee shop noise mimics the noise of the newsroom, which is where I learned to write. I like noise.
I also try to cheat on work with other work. If I’m not feeling smart enough to write, I send invoices or answer email (there’s always some email that needs to be answered) or write to an editor I’ve been meaning to pitch or make a pie chart. It’s a lie that writing is the only task in a freelance writer’s job description.
If I have a deadline looming and am really struggling to focus, I do a thing I call “busy fingers.” I open up a Google Doc and make myself type. Just type. I have to keep my fingers moving on the keys, not letting them wander to the trackpad, for at least 10 minutes. Usually the writing starts out crap but by the end of those 10 minutes, I’ve got the beginnings of an article. I may have to give it a heavy edit, but at least I’m out of the Tumblr-Twitter-Facebook productivity death spiral.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling uninspired and I don’t have an immediate deadline looming, I don’t stay on task. I don’t chain myself to the computer and force myself to try to work just because it’s a Wednesday morning. I’ll stop and read a book or my Instapaper queue, or take a walk or something. I try to remember that flexibility is one of the rewards of freelance life, that I don’t have to keep 9-to-5 hours in order to maintain a veneer of professionalism.
Must not become must not become must not become.