March 5, 2010

Defining Work-from-Home

"So, what do you do?" isn't a particularly difficult question for most folks to answer. Yet, one thing I've come across time and again is the trouble those who work from their homes have getting others to believe they really do have a job. Usually the fact of a paycheck coming weekly, biweekly, monthly, or at the end of a contracted job settles the matter. But what about those people who labor over lengthy projects where no sale is guaranteed?

Do we relegate artists, novelist, and craftsmen who labor from home, whether they have children or not, as mere hobbyist simply because they have yet to land agents or sell their works in progress? Is the labor any less because it has yet to garner a profit or the workers any less industrious and serious about their craft because they are working toward that first check instead of having it in hand? Not necessarily.

How then do you define working-from-home? Not everyone who sets brush to canvas is a painter, and not everyone who gardens is a landscaper. The difference is in intent and destination. For the hobbyist, it's about enjoyment and the current project. For the home laborer, it's a step along the upward climb of their career.

When I started this blog, I was editing a novel I admit I've been working on for over a decade, mostly because I was trying to squash it into a mold it didn't fit because it was the expected thing. I was doing direct sales as a way to bring in a little income for the time being with an eye toward building a career as a novelist, so I named the blog with this in mind. I almost deleted the blog altogether when the sales gig fell through because playing around with my notebooks and word files didn't classify me as a work-at-home-mom.

Then I started thinking about what else I could do. I tried a few other things, but aside from the house I clean once a week, nothing stuck either because I wasn't suited for it or demand ran out. Through it all, I've kept writing. More than just a passion, it's a need. I actually tried to give it up altogether when Sneak was very young because I couldn't find a free moment amongst managing the household and tending to both girls needs with the opposing routines of a two-year-old and an infant. The resulting depression in the months that followed came frighteningly close to ending me.

At that lowest point, I knew I had not only to pick up a pen again but to set out some sort of plan. So I drafted my business plan, or as close to one as you can come when all you know for sure is what you have waiting in line to be created. I have the next four and a half years mapped out according to planned projects. Some, like the cookbook, I plan to publish independently, and others like Right of Succession, I plan to submit to agents and publishers. If I haven't successfully launched my career by mid 2014, I will begin looking into starting my own business with alternative skills I am learning now.

The plan makes the difference. Without it, I'd just be another hobbyist with a couple insignificant publications in literary journals and that one lonely short story published just before I became a mother. It sets my goals in mind whenever exhaustion and the pull of everyday things make sitting down with my characters seem like a waste of time, reminding me that each page sets me one step closer to the career I've wanted since I was ten.

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