“You’re so lucky, you can work anywhere.” That’s what people say to me when I tell them that I’m a writer. I also hear something similar from friends and family who want me to visit them — “you can work anywhere… so come visit us and work here while you visit.”
Gosh that sounds good. I love the idea. And that kind of mobility is a nice benefit of being a writer.
But I think it’s a myth perhaps perpetrated by Hollywood, which frequently depicts key characters as writers (usually in romantic comedies — not sure why that is) who spend most of their work time sitting in the world’s busiest coffee shops, sipping coffee while occasionally writing a couple words here and there. Somehow they make a living doing that, while living in New York, no less.
That’s not me. The truth is, I can’t work anywhere. At least, I can’t work anywhere while maintaining my regular pace and delivering my regular quality of content to clients. Trust me, I’ve tried it. I can’t.
I’m a people watcher and I’m easily distracted by the sights and sounds around me. I don’t work so well in coffee shops or parks or airports. I love the idea but I’m lucky to write 3 words in an hour.
Plus, the kind of writing I do is serious compel-your-readers-to-get-out-their-wallet writing — it’s the kind of writing that I sweat through when I write (well, not literally). I’m constantly at my whiteboard charting out what I need to say; I’m researching online and in my library of books; I’m making notes; I’m consulting my gigantic playbook of copywriting strategies and business-building strategies; I’m wrestling through my clients’ proprietary offerings; sometimes I talk through a complicated sentence out loud; in some projects, I easily end up with dozen hand-written pages of ideas. You can’t do these things at a coffee shop (or, at least, you can’t do these things at a coffee shop without getting kicked out for looking like a crazy person).
Plus, I know my strengths and weaknesses. For example, I know that my best and most productive work happens between 6AM and noon. I know that I’m at my best when I do this consistently, Monday through Friday. And I do it best when I work in my windowless (yes, windowless) office. For that reason, my mornings are super-focused and highly structured (not surprisingly, they’re also highly productive), while my afternoons are less structured.
And one of the most important reasons that I can’t work anywhere (at least in terms of my longevity as a writer), is this: When working, I sit in a comfortable but straight-backed office chair and I work with an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. If I write anywhere else — say, on my laptop’s keyboard at a coffee shop table — my wrists will explode (maybe that’s not the medical term) and then I’ll have to stop being a writer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hermit. I LOVE to travel. I love hanging out at coffee shops. I’m a pretty social person. I wish I could work anywhere. And I do have a bit of work that I do outside of my office (networking and meetings, which are the most obvious, but also phone calls and brainstorming and planning and problem-solving). But when I’m in my office, I’m a highly-focused, extremely productive workhorse, and that’s where I do most of my best and most prolific revenue-generating content-creation.
I’m in my chair at 6AM and I end up writing more in the first six hours of the day than most people write in a week or even a month. (That’s not an exaggeration — I get pretty close to 10,000 words a day). In the afternoons, things are a little less structured and sometimes I work in my office but I also have the freedom to do other things.
And when I’m away from the office, I like being away from the office, if that makes sense… Hanging out with friends, exploring new places, drinking coffee, watching people (but not in a weird way).
I think a lot is made of writers and their opportunity to “work from anywhere”. And maybe there are writers who can. But I’m a copywriter and my business model and financial goals — and even just the way I’m wired — ensure that if I want to earn a comfortable living as a writer, it’s not going to be from “anywhere”.