June Theme: The Division of Labor Space (Tracy Barrett)

Like many writers, I have a day job (I’m a college professor), and like many people—writers and others—at first I had a hard time drawing a line between work and home. Early on, I decided that home is home and work is work, and never the twain shall meet. I determined never to bring work home. When I had children, this became especially important. I may be at work a lot of the day, I decided, but when I’m home, I’m home.

This division worked just fine until I started writing. Was writing something I did at home, or something I did at the office? It’s work, but it’s not university work. It didn’t make sense for me to stay at the office any longer than I already did, especially while my kids were small, so I carved out a home office. I took over a side of our guest room and set up a computer, a bookcase, and my great find, one of those office mailbox things turned on its side, for storage. I expanded my decision never to bring work home to include never writing at my day job.

Office mailbox thing (what are these called, anyway?)
It's worked well—maybe too well. If I turn out to have a spare hour at work and decide to revise a chapter I’ve written the day before, or get to work on a new writing idea, I find that I can’t do it. I’ve trained myself too well that writing is something I do out of the university office.

The Jack Russell Terrorists
I can't write with anyone else in the room. Well, except for these two, whose excuse is that they can't read the "KEEP OUT" sign on the door.

Soon my division of labor space will be in the past, though. I’ve turned in notice at work, and in May of 2012 I’ll officially become a full-time writer—or a full-time self-publicist, I guess, since promotion takes up more and more of the average writer’s time. I’m blogging about my last year of having a day job, along with thoughts on pre-planning, at Goodbye, Day Job! I’d love to hear from any of you who have done the same or are contemplating it.


  1. CONGRATS on becoming a full-time author, Tracy! (I was only able to do it because of massive, massive support from my family...) Love those office buddies, too...

  2. I'd love you to guest blog about that, Holly!

  3. Tracy, I'm excited about your new full-time job! My father gave me wise words once, after watching me drag work (hubby and I run a small business) from home to office and back, all the while thinking it was saving me time: PARK IT, he said. He advised me to keep work in one place. And you know what? He was absolutely right about that. It helps keep my home space feeling free.

  4. Tracy, I'll be interested to hear how you manage your time as a full-time author. Right now I teach a half-day, and try to use the other half of the day for writing. Notice I use the word "try"!

  5. Irene, I agree with your dad! My aunt and uncle took it to an extreme--their home office didn't connect with the rest of the house so they had to go outside and then re-enter through the workspace, and they didn't go home again until the end of the day. Worked for them!

  6. Andrea, I'll be interested too! I have one more year of teaching left and I already feel the senioritis creeping in. I hope some people who have already done it will give good advice on my blog. I have a guest post-er tomorrow who has done it--can't wait to see what he says.

  7. Tracy--one blog about being a full-time author comin' up!


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