Let me explain – I work from home. Up until last week my commute was nothing more than the distance between the bedroom and the small office next door (or the room downstairs when I’m writing). A shower, a cup of tea, and I was good to go. Now I have a brisk twenty-minute walk up to the top of the hill, down through the garden suburb, round to the bottom of the hill and back up again.
I’ve been working from home for a few years. Three days a week at my IT tech support job, the rest of the time writing fiction and doing all the other things that involves. There are some good things about working from home – no commute costs, no traffic, no crowds and queues. The downside is it’s all too easy to become sedentary, especially during winter.
I’ve worked for the same IT company for 15 years. Three or four years ago we realised we no longer needed an office. The internet gave us secure access to client sites, and cloud services could run all our applications and storage. The cost of those services was small compared to office costs, it was a no-brainer.
There are downsides too. Our office camaraderie had always been brilliant – one of the reasons I’m still here after 15 years. We realised we risked losing this and so we have regular work-together days in London, and socialise more often too.
Our last team working day was a couple of weeks ago. As I was walking to the station that morning with the early morning traffic rolling by and groups of children heading to school, I realised there was one big thing about the commute that I enjoyed – the thinking time.
My office commute used to be a 40 minute drive out of London and against the traffic to the offices we rented at Fairoaks airport, once a WWII RAF training base, now a light commercial airport, not far from Heathrow. Traffic was free-flowing and light, I used to enjoy thinking about what the day would hold – my work, stories I was writing, and other things. I realised I really missed it.
One thing you definitely need as a writer is thinking time. It doesn’t get mentioned very often in all the blogs and books and advice, but it’s bloody important. Your mind needs time to wander, to mull ideas and plots and characters. Recently I’d come to realise I wasn’t getting enough.
So I decided that I would start walking to work again. Out the front door, around the block, and back home again. It felt a bit eccentric mentioning to my partner (she’s a full-time writer who also works from home), but I shouldn’t have worried. She liked the idea so much she’s started doing it too.
A lot of our life is habit and pattern, just as an enormous amount of what we believe and think are stories. I’ve started to understand how not enough structure can be a bad thing. (Too much is a bad thing too – that’s the difference between living your live in a rut or a groove.)
I’ve become a commuter again, and I love it. I’m actually waking up in the morning looking forwards to the walk. I’m even thinking about walking home at the end of the day as well.