Main [  Home  |  Novels  |  Bio  |  Photo Gallery  |  FAQ  |  Workshop  |  Author Notes  |  Science  |  Links  ]
FAQ [  Writing  |  Queries  |  Agents  |  Publishers  |  Editors  |  Contracts  |  Authors  |  Books  ]

Copyright 2005 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

TARA K. HARPER
WRITER'S WORKSHOP
Just Shoot the Blasted Salesman!

(Talk about a politically incorrect title)

What it Takes to Work at Home
Do-Not-Call Lists
Door-to-Door Irritants
But I Still Believe in God...


What it Takes to Work at Home

What does it take to work at home?  Discipline.  It's that simple.  You need discipline not just to take the time to write, but to train your friends, family, and self to the idea that you are unavailable while working.  This means also training the local solicitors and religious representatives not to call on your place of business--your home office while you are writing.

When you are writing, you are working.  That means, no chatty phone calls, no checking e-mail every other hour, no answering the door, no calling around about that overdue order.  Do those things when you take a break, not while you are writing.  It is too easy to be distracted by the phone, caught up in chores, frazzled by your family's latest crisis.  Unless you want to be a housewife or househusband first and a writer second, define for yourself a workday.

Workdays don't have to be regular.  My workdays start when I get up and end when I take a break, run errands, or go to bed.  My husband now knows that if I'm in my office, I'm not "home" yet.  He can't chat to me about his day until I come "home" too--by closing down the files or by telling him that I am "off work" for the moment.  This also means that he can't interrupt me to ask where the towels are, how much sherry to put in the stir fry, or whether the dog has been run.  I am working and unavailable, just as he is unavailable when he drives away in the morning to his own office.

If you work at home, you need to do five things:

  1. Turn off the regular house phone while writing.
  2. Install a second, unlisted business line, and give that phone number only to your agent, publisher, and lawyer.
  3. Physically disconnect your modem while working  (a switch box costs about $4), or turn off your instant messaging, e-mail notification, and pinging applications.  Otherwise, your system will continue to check mail and notify you that you have new messages while you're trying to work.
  4. Post the following sign outside at your front door:
           Do Not Disturb 
           No Tresspassing
           If you ring this bell or knock on this door,
           you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
           ORS 164.255  ORS 166.065

                       -- Use the criminal code appropriate for your state trespassing and harassment laws.
  5. Post a completely separate sign near the door, which says "No Solicitation."

If you have children, you can also dedicate a phone line to children issues and give out that number only to your children and to their school administrators, doctors, and day-care workers.  This allows you to keep an ear out for emergencies and important things that come up, while not having to deal with phone solicitors, call-backs, friends, etc., who try to reach you while you are working.  It's not that expensive or difficult these days to set up a phone system in which one number goes directly to voicemail, and the other audibly rings the phone--technology is actually becoming a friend to those who work at home.

The main thing is to let as little as possible interfere while you are working.  Setting aside time that is dedicated to writing, means clearing time away from general life duties.  If you can't do that, it will probably be difficult for you to advance much in your writing career.

[  Next discussion  ][  Return to top  ]


Do-Not-Call Lists

Don't do it.  They don't work.

Okay, I'm sure they work for some people.  I'm sure they really do cut down on many of the calls you might otherwise receive.  They just don't work for me.  I'd say, if you absolutely have to have your home phone turned on while you work, don't count on a do-not-call listing to keep you free of solicitations.

There's been quite a bit of publicity (Jan, Feb 2003) about the national do-not-call list.  However, the fine print for that do-not-call list actually exempts nonprofit organizations and several other categories of organizations from its restrictions.  This means that signing up for the national do-not-call list may get rid of ethical telemarketers (and how many of them do you know?).  However, a telemarketer that works for a nonprofit company can still call.  And, in fact, signing up for such a do-not-call list is like deliberately putting yourself on the hit list for every nonprofit in the world:  churches, fund-raising organizations, support-your-favorite-disease-research organizations, schools, public polling, campaign support organizations, etc.  You might as well post your phone number on the internet.  Sure, try it if you want to, but don't hold your breath for it to work.

My advice is to get a new, never-before-used phone number, and pay the phone company the extra dollar a month to keep it not only unlisted, but to keep it on the unused list.  You'll still get a few computer-generated calls once every couple of months, but I can live with that.

[  Next discussion  ][  Return to top  ]


Door-to-Door Irritants

This is the biggie, since you can't just 'turn off' your front door.  The sign described up above in #4:
       Do Not Disturb 
       No Tresspassing
       If you ring this bell or knock on this door,
       you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
       ORS 164.255  ORS 166.065

            --that sign should cut down the door-to-door irritants by about 90%.  I tried "No Solicitation" and "Do Not Disturb" signs by themselves, but the signs were ignored or kept getting stolen (and who steals a 'no solicitation' sign, anyway?).  That, and the daily irritants would say, "But we're not selling anything.  We just want to convert / proselytize / inform / give / fill-in-the-blank you."

Even if you use the do-not-disturb sign, you might still have problems with some religious representatives.  Many of them have missioning responsibilities that include aggressive or constant proselytizing.  In my neighborhood, these people have rung the bell anyway and, when I've opened the door, have actually said, "We really liked your sign," or, "That's a great sign.  We thought it was a joke."  I've begun to wonder if they learn these phrases at some sort of mission strategy school to avoid prosecution.  Especially since I have a dog, there's the instant guard-vs-guest response barking, not just the danger of the dog going through the plate glass window--and yes, that has happened.  She's only a hundred pounds, but apparently has a strong sense of territory.  Once the dog is settled down, I have to deal with the intrusion itself, which further yanks me out of the storyline and characters, ruins my concentration, and destroys the productive intimacy I previously had with what I was trying to write.

If religious proselytizing is a problem in your area, consider adding the following line to the sign:  "No XX," where XX is whatever type of representative that insists on ringing your doorbell.  For example, Jehovah's Witness members claim to honor the statement, "No JW."

With Mormons, you can go to your local Mormon church and request that they not proselytize at your home.  This will allow you to make the local ward aware of your preferences and hopefully honor your wishes for privacy while working, since they completely ignore do-not-disturb and no-tresspassing signs.  For example, the local ward harassed me for years, breaking my concentration at odd hours and losing me a tremendous amount of work.  I finally made a personal visit to their ward's leader and pointed out that I could take legal action if they continued to ignore the warnings they had continually received.  Only after that did they honor my preferences, and only for four years.  Then the ward leader changed, which happens every 5 years or so.  After that, I had to contact the new ward leader and go through the process again for the next bishop's reign.

[  Next discussion  ][  Return to top  ]


But I Still Believe in God...

A sign like the one described in #4 may sound cold and inhospitable, but it does not mean that you are not God-fearing, religious, spiritual, etc.  It just means that you really, truly, honestly, no question about it, please go away, do not want to be disturbed while you are working.  If it makes you feel better, take the sign down when you stop working.  For writers who have trouble with discipline, such a practice might also help more clearly define the workday.  The main point is that you need to include the criminal code appropriate for trespassing and harassment, in order for the sign to be legally enforceable.

Your immediate neighbors, your friends, and your family members can be told that the sign is not aimed at them.  Also, delivery people are exempt from such a sign since, by placing that order, you specifically requested that the delivery person come to your residence to deliver that good or service.  The government, of course, is also not bound by such a sign.  The rest of the world should respect it.  And, after a while, family members, neighbors and friends will learn the best times to call or drop by.  In the meantime, you will have a better environment to concentrate on your work.

Unless, of course, you really want to lose all those threads of storyline, and answer the door every hour just to say, no, I'm really not interested in another magazine subscription...


Copyright 2005 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.


Main [  Home  |  Novels  |  Bio  |  Photo Gallery  |  FAQ  |  Workshop  |  Author Notes  |  Science  |  Links  ]
FAQ [  Writing  |  Queries  |  Agents  |  Publishers  |  Editors  |  Contracts  |  Authors  |  Books  ]

_______________

Top of  File ]