Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Stay-at-Home Writer: Pros and Cons

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Yesterday, I looked into the mirror and saw that I had two pairs of reading glasses perched on my head. My only defence is that I was in the writing zone, that interior place where I’m focused on story. Frankly, when I saw that reflection of myself, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that I work from my home office, and not from a building in downtown Toronto, or another busy public workspace.

I’m making myself vulnerable by telling you that story. I risk your thinking that I’m not quite all there, that maybe I suffered a recent head trauma, or am demonstrating the early symptoms of dementia. I suppose I also shouldn’t tell you that, as I was writing the above paragraph, I smelled burning and hurried to the kitchen to flip over the grilled cheese sandwich I was making. Again, I blame story.

There are other challenges to writing from home, besides the fire hazards. Depending upon who wakes up first, my husband or I go to the Tim Hortons around the block and bring back two extra large coffees. We both retreat to our separate computer rooms, my husband for an hour or so of surfing before he leaves for work, and me, to check my email. It is delightful, on those days when my husband gets the coffee, to go straight from bed to computer, to nurse that coffee while slipping into the day. Sometimes the transition to the day’s writing is so smooth that it is mid-morning before I realize that I haven’t yet changed out of my sleepwear. The realization is usually made when standing at the door signing for a package delivered via courier.

Housework is a perennial problem for this stay-at-home writer. Let me tell you, unless you’re an author like J.K. Rowling, raking in the big royalty bucks, you still have to do housework. If I’m on deadline, the house stays a mess until the deadline is met. We’re not talking an empty coffee cup left on the countertop. We’re talking, when did the cyclone hit? We’re talking Toronto when the garbage collectors are on strike – well, no, not that bad. Once, however, when I saw movement beneath a pile of papers, I thought rat, and was relieved to see my cat emerge instead. But on the positive side of the issue of a messy house, I always meet my deadline.

Then there’s housework as avoidance. If the house is extremely clean, everything in its place, tabletops polished, coffee cups recycled, the smell of lemon Lysol in the air, then I’m avoiding the computer screen. If I left the house to work each day, then I couldn’t use housework as an excuse not to write.

Of course, there are advantages to a home office. I spend less on wardrobe, I don’t have to commute, I don’t have to scrape the ice off the car in winter (unless I’m the one going out to get the coffee) and I get to claim my home office on my income tax.

What’s the state of my house right now twelve days into my OpenBook WIR stint? I haven’t seen the cat for a while now, although I do hear purring coming from the mountain of newspapers on the living room floor.

~ Marianne Paul

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Marianne Paul

Marianne Paul's is the author of the novels Dead Girl Diaries (BookLand Press, 2009), Tending Memory (BookLand Press, 2007), Twice in a Blue Moon (BookLand Press, 2007) and The Shunning (Moonstone Press, 1994). Her fiction, non-fiction and poems have appeared in publications such as Vox Feminarum, Cahoots, Canadian Author, Western People and The New Quarterly.

Go to Marianne Paul’s Author Page