Gratitude at Work: Working for Myself Means I Can Do Things My Way

When you work for yourself, you get to do a lot of things your way. I’m eternally grateful for this freedom, which I’ve enjoyed for most of my professional life as a writer and editor. In the spirit of thankfulness, today I’m reflecting on what “doing it my way” means to me.

This morning I got up in the dark (unusually early for me), pulled on my pink fluffy bathrobe and read the paper at the kitchen table. As my caffeine buzz kicked in, my bathrobe and I commuted to work. My daily commute is 14 steps down a flight of stairs into my office/art studio. Okay, technically it’s my office/art studio/husband’s jam room/son’s bike storage unit/tool shed. It’s also my guest room, if you consider an air mattress on the floor a guest room (I do).

Yeah, it’s a busy room. But here’s what I love about my office. First, it’s downstairs, which means I can physically and mentally separate myself from my work. Second, I can let things get as messy as I want. Believe me, I do.

Right now, it looks like a tornado passed through here. I’ve got piles of papers everywhere. Not long ago, I decided to keep fresh flowers on my desk. Turns out flowers are pretty for about four days. Dead flowers last much longer, but they’re not quite so pretty. When my cat (see Ode to Mango, below) knocked over the vase of dead flowers, I gave up on the idea altogether.

On my art table: brushes, empty containers for water, paints, scissors, a drill and a box of Meals Ready to Eat which hasn’t yet made it to my emergency supply kit outside (I live in the earthquake-prone Bay Area). Oh, and two Costco-sized bottles of apple juice. They have been sitting there for weeks. Does apple juice expire? I guess we’ll find out when someone decides to bring a bottle upstairs and actually open it.

Adding to the chaos: I’m currently collecting plastic water bottles for a large-scale art project. I’ve got garbage bags and boxes filled with plastic bottles. Eventually, I’ll move the bags to an outside shed. Thanks, shed!

Funny thing is, generally I hate clutter. I “Marie Kondo-ed” my house a few years ago, obsessively clearing out closets, drawers and bookcases. I reclaimed spaces I hadn’t seen in years, like the top of my bedroom dresser and the drawers in my bedside table. For the most part, I’ve managed to keep things clutter-free upstairs.

Down here, it’s a different story. Part of me believes (well, chooses to believe) my mess belies the creativity process in progress. When clutter starts to hinder my productivity, I’ll devote a day or two to getting extremely organized. Then the cycle will begin again.

One more thing about “doing it my way.” Like many folks who work at home, my pets keep me company throughout the day. Honestly, that’s one of the things I’m most grateful for when it comes to working for myself! My dog Bonnie mostly curls up on the floor and snoozes. My cat Mango busily explores every corner, crevice and cupboard. Turns out he’s also got a thing for cursors:

Ode to Mango

(A Good Worker Is Hard to Find)

Mango,

It’s hard to work

With your head

Blocking my computer screen,

Your tail

Flicking across my keyboard,

And your bottom

Settled squarely

Upon my notes.

Mango,

It’s hard to write

As you dip one paw

Into my mug of tea

And then damply bat

The yellow highlighter

Across my desk.

Mango,

You’re an excellent hunter –

Catching every cursor,

Killing every pen.

But you’re one lousy

Editorial assistant.


Willow Older is a nationally and internationally published writer and a professional editor. She lives in Northern California where she runs her own editorial services business and publishes a weekly newsletter called Newsy!.

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