It’s reading a two-day-old Times piece with the tagline, “A correspondent gets a lesson in the nuance of Chinese names” and calling it work because you sense it’s somehow important, and following that sense (against all common sense and voices of others and your inner voice telling you to stop wasting time) is all that’s made you any good so far at what you really want to do (that is, the Goal — the reason you’re working from home).
It’s waking up at 8:30 when your alarm was set for 7:45 and thinking, “Extra 45 minutes on the end of the day, okay.”
It’s showering at 8 for the first week and around noon thereafter.
It’s pausing at the end of lunch to wash a sinkfull of dishes—that you didn’t dirty—of soggy macaroni, crisp flakes of fried egg, and small drifts of butter.
It’s keeping track of your time to make sure you do 8 hours a day, because if you don’t, then nobody will.
It’s taking half the day to read and mark-up, with pencil and sticky-note tabs, a textbook of your choosing, about something you’re learning because you want to learn it and use it to create (monetary considerations not entirely set aside, but entirely secondary, because it would be nice but not necessary to get paid for your work before you die).
It’s wanting to go upstairs and play Bioshock, but moreso wanting to do what you’re doing.
It’s thinking, “I should shave today.”
It’s working in the same space you use to sit, sleep, file your taxes, laugh and argue with family, play Catchphrase, arrange the books that overflow off the shelves, stare out the window, make your lunch, chat aimlessly, feed the cat, and get woken up by the sound of your sister bawling in the room above you. It sometimes means there’s no clear line between these things and work.
It’s waiting nine minutes for your 10-year-old computer to boot up because it’s all you can afford until your work brings a paycheck.
It’s interrupting your work to put on sandals, go outside, and check the water level in the buried chamber that houses the leaky sprinkler valve.
It’s writing about what obsesses you and calling it work.
It’s blogging about things that you hope other people will find interesting, because older men you respect have told you that blogging is key to building influence though they didn’t tell you how or why.
It’s facing a world that resembles an amorphous, rainbow anthill where everyone has their own ways of staying alive and making staying alive worth doing and absolutely does not care about anything you have to offer, and focusing on a certain segment of that throbbing, indifferent mass of sky and vowing I will do what it takes to make them care.
[Aside: writing about “what it’s like to work from home,” trying to describe the experience of a generic, everyman self-employer would be absurd, useless and impossible. Writing about “my experience working from home” has hopefully been specific, vivid, and actually given you a picture of the general by showing you the particular]