That IS the Question

Alethea Mermaid

There is one question that every creative freelancer dreads.

It is not: “Where do you get your ideas?” (Some of us actually have a quite a good time making up stuff for that one.)

No, the question we all dread is the one our friend/family member asks as soon as we pick up the phone:

“Are you at work or at home?”

This question drives insane both artists and authors alike. Anyone who works from home can empathize. There seem to be no boundaries when a person works from home. It’s HOME. If you are at home, then clearly you are available to go to the store or pick the kids or go for a walk or lend me your chainsaw or look this up on Google or just chat for 3 hours. Right?!?

I mean, it’s not like your boss is going to fire you.

My sister, Soteria Kontis, is a professional jewelry designer. She owns a shop with a storefront in Charleston, South Carolina called Dixie Dunbar Studio. The storefront is her retail showroom. Where she makes the jewelry–where all the gems and tools and machines are located–is her home office studio.

When she is asked, “Are you at work or are you at home?” her answer is usually, “I am working, I’m just not in the store today.” If anyone wants to borrow a cup of sugar, they are welcome to do so before 10am or after 5pm.

The previous owner of the store, the eponymous Dixie Dunbar, used to own a private jewelry studio in an undisclosed location. “It was a brilliant move,” says Soteria. “I just can’t afford that.”

I asked my good friend Greg Hall, aka The Funky Werepig, about this same issue, and his response was similarly passionate.

When asked, “Are you at work or at home?” Greg likes to answer, “Yes.”

When the person follows up with, “Do you have time to talk?” Greg replies, “Business or Personal? Because if it’s personal, I have to move to a different chair.”

Greg has many good friends who like to call and “shoot the shit.” It frustrates him to no end. “I just want to say, dude, I have a nine-year-old who gets this concept. Why can’t you?”

And so I pose this same question to all of you out there splashing in the Mermaid Lagoon today. Go on, give it your best, most clever shot.

“Are you at home, or are you at work?”

How would YOU answer?

6 thoughts on “That IS the Question

  1. Alethea, totally not fair! How in the world does one follow the response of the Funky Werepig? I’m not even going to try being that funny but yes, I deal with this work from home issue too. I’ve been a work from homer for twelve years now. Squirrel–If I’m ever driving thorugh the area, I’m stopping at your sister’s store! How cool πŸ™‚

  2. Alethea,
    When my friend’s call to “shoot the shit,” I immediately start doing things I need to do anyway while I’m talking. I fold the laundry. I unload and reload the dishwasher. As soon as I do that, I tell her that I have to get back to writing. If I don’t want to talk, I just don’t answer the phone.
    I’ve made a deal with myself that if–no, WHEN–I get a contract, I will treat writing as more of a career. I’m going to buy myself an actual desk and everything instead of writing at a cluttered, sticky kitchen table. πŸ™‚
    One thing I have to keep reminding myself is that to be a friend means being there–even when you don’t want to. It’s a fair trade for them being there for me as well. You can always start a new story or get back to what you were writing, but it’s hard to resuscitate a dying friendship. We all have different schedules. We all have busy lives. But we need to make time for friends and family. I completely understand how hard it is to blend these two ideas. I’m not saying that I don’t resent it sometimes because I do. I just have to learn to deal with it better. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m with you — I clean while I’m on the phone. But I’d rather NOT be on the phone at all during “office hours.”
      I’ve actually trained my mother to read my blog so she knows where I am and what I’m doing. She checks it every morning with her coffee. I feel a little like a horrible daughter, bu it does encourage me to blog more. And when people want to know what’s going on with me, they ask her.

  3. I encourage people to e-mail me, especially concerning my children’s activities.If I do get a long winded call, I check my e-mail while I listen.

  4. Oh this is always so hard – especially with my mom. With time differences and schedule differences getting us together on the phone can be a real pain, but when I’m on deadline (for a book or a client) sometimes I have to forgo the call and try to catch up later.

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