Administrivia

Everyone usually expresses such polite jealousy when they hear I freelance full time. And to be honest, I used to as well. But now sometimes I think the idea that people have built up in their heads is of a lifestyle that might as well include half-naked servants feeding the freelancer grapes. The reality is that like any other chair-bound job, office life invariably involves paperwork, emails, phonecalls, and lots and lots of negligible administrative tasks that seem to suck a little color out of the day. When I worked a dayjob, it seemed like 3 hours or more a day was filled with answering emails, filling out paperwork, and talking to people. Free of the dayjob, I still seem to spend 3 or more hours a day doing the same thing.

But the main thing that people don’t account for is the fact that you’re all alone in your little office by yourself for days and days. If you’re a hermit that sounds great. Maybe even an extreme introvert. But it would take a hell of an extreme introvert to do this days on end and not realize that the isolation of the office and seeing only their significant other or children is a bit stultifying.

People are quite social animals. Those random office chats, water cooler conversations, hallway greetings, lunch time outings, they don’t seem like much, but they represent a constant flow of human interaction that suddenly disappears entirely. It’s often said that you have to lose something to realize it was there, and in the case of work, I realized it’s just as much a social community as a way to make money.

Sometimes I catch myself missing that.

There’s an easy fix for that: and that is when I call up a friend I used to work with, or a family member, and arrange to go to lunch. Often you’ll find me at the local coffee shop working, just so I can be near the buzz of conversation. I expected to save money on my lunch budget when I went full time as a freelancer, instead my lunch budget increased!

But yet, I still can’t get rid of all that damn paperwork! Administrivia abounds, and the tough part is that you are always drawn to trying and get it off the desk because it gets in the way. But that ends being whack-a-mole.

I have a manuscript proof to go over, a fellow writer’s book to blurb, my tax documents need gathered and mailed to my accountant… what’s missing here? Oh, writing! I’ve met many writers who say that they don’t write that much more than when they had a dayjob, oddly enough. I’ll bet it’s administrivia creep.

Fortunately I am a night owl. No one emails, calls, or bugs me at midnight. No postal service is open, there are no businesses open. I’m fairly productive. Of course, this was how I wrote while I had a dayjob.

The difference is that now I get to sleep in and skip those bleary couple hours in the morning where I would sit with a coke and a muffin in my office and just stare at people as they asked me questions I didn’t understand.

That’s alright, and pretty much what I’d always hoped dreamed for in life. But seriously, it isn’t hand-fed grapes. I still have those lists of little things that need to get done that have nothing really to do with the big things that I love doing… no one escapes administrivia. Not even me.

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  1. 1. Bran fan

    I’m in a group of full-time freelancers that gets together twice a week. We meet at each other’s houses. The host makes the coffee, we chat for about ten minutes, and then we shut up and write for two hours. (Our group is named “Shut Up and Write”.) It solves the social isolation problem while still letting us work, and is quieter and cheaper than the coffee shop.

  2. 2. Karen Wester Newton

    I think working/being alone is harder the more of an extrovert you are. When my younger brother moved out and my mother lived alone for the first time in her live, it was hard on her. When I’d go visit, she would talk non-stop for the first two hours I was there, because she had saved up so many things she wanted to say. I’m guessing you’re an extrovert because you get energy from being with people. I’ll bet sitting at your desk by yourself uses energy really fast.

  3. 3. Tobias Buckell

    Bran: what a cool idea.

    Karen: according to my psych profile I’m balanced perfectly between intro and extro. At night I like being alone for 5+ hours and writing. But during the day I’d prefer to at least see one person besides the dogs…

  4. 4. Melinda

    I’m still a student, but I moved from the Netherlands to London last year. Formerly I would have to go to the university and work there, which I always hated. Nowadays I stay home and work there, often only going out for food shopping. And to be honest, I don’t mind it that much. Of course, my boyfriend also works at home, so I’m not completely alone, but I’m not really missing the social “buzz”. Once in the two weeks, I’ll meet-up with other people, but it doesn’t really feel as if I “need” that.

    I think it really depends on how much of an introvert/extrovert you are. Being with people, really drains me most of the time and I hate crowded and loud places. I’m not that much of a party girl either; I’d rather stay home with a good book.

  5. 5. Karen Wester Newton

    “But during the day I’d prefer to at least see one person besides the dogs…”

    Hmm. Does the word “besides” imply your dogs are human?

  6. 6. Tobias Buckell

    Karen, nice catch. I guess I do LOL.

  7. 7. Francy

    My friend Jay sent me here. I only recently began working from home, and really had no idea how much social isolation that would create! I caught myself thinking I should post on c-list or something for a coffee group for people who work from home and just need to get out and socialize once in awhile. ….then again, there are probably some things like that already. Anyhow, “Hi.”

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Tobias Buckell
Tobias Buckell

Tobias is a professional blogger, freelance writer, and author of 2 novels. His Caribbean roots often inform his fiction, but so does his love of technology, science, and the rapidly changing world all around us. Visit site.

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