[If you’d like to listen to this article, instead of reading it, click the audio file below]
I don’t work in an office.
I don’t drive to work. I don’t sit in traffic for hours. I don’t wear a suit, or a tie. If it weren’t for the fact that other people live here, I could work naked, or in my kilt. I suppose I could work in the kilt either way, but it would be kind of weird, and I’d have to justify it or at least explain it. One shouldn’t have to justify wearing a kilt to work. I reckon you would have to if you worked in a traditional office space, but I don’t. I’m a writer. I walk downstairs, pour some iced tea into a Mason jar, and start typing.
Working Remotely: Writing can be lonely work.
Most people still work in office buildings, the ancient paradigm that still grips most of the world, especially the U.S.
While that model of work is quickly dying, it’s still the norm. People leave the comforts and conveniences of home, to drive—sometimes an hour or more—to some high-rise office, or an office in one of those hideous, stip-mall-esque office parks, to slave away for 8 hours, even though we now know that the average American worker is only efficient for 2 to 3 hours, per day, only to turn around and drive back, packed in like sardines on a highway that was designed 40 years ago, for the traffic levels of 50 years ago.
All this occurs in a world where we can talk face to face via computer screens, anywhere we damned well please. Anyone that doesn’t have that capability is living in the most remote places of the world, or in such places that are so economically depressed, that they aren’t viable places to do business anyway.
The corporate office space and the 40 hour week have been obsolete for at least a decade. They’re fuckin’ dinosaurs dancing with nano-tech shoes.
But there’s a new model of work, and it’s very similar to that of the lonely writer. More and more companies, especially new ones, are opting for more efficient models of work, including working remotely, from home, or from the fuckin’ beach, for that matter. Now THERE’S an idea!
While I love working remotely, there are a few problems with it.
One, it’s sometimes hard to stay focused on the task at hand. It’s pretty easy to opt to wash dishes, eat second and third breakfast, even take out the garbage, instead of writing another chapter. Luckily–which is not at all the right word–I’m not distracted by sand in my toes or pretty girls in bikinis, since I live in Minnesota where there are no real beaches. Sorry guys, a couple tons of sand dumped next to a lake is NOT a beach. No salt, no surf, no beach.
Two, there’s no one to gossip with at the office water-cooler. There’s just me, a sleepy
old dog named Bubble, and two Viking Pirate Kitties: Squish and Punkin,’ who are always trying to steal my favorite office chair. Bubble is loyal, at least–and too big for the chair, but the two kitties could give not one shit as to whether I write a word, or twenty-thousand, though I suppose they have been the inspiration for a few words over the last few years, this paragraph in particular.
The third, but probably not final, reason that makes working remotely a challenge, is that there’s very little accountability or support from coworkers; there’s no one here to see that I’m taking a nap with kitties, washing dishes, or cranking out chapters. And there’s no one to pitch my genius ideas to: not during the day anyway. I certainly pester Patience with them, early in the morning and late at night, if someone who goes to bed at 8:30 can even speak of ‘late nights.’ Probably not.
When I was writing Be a Hobbit, I was participating in a weekly, writing group with some friends of mine in the Twin Cities. I call it the Ewing Street Philosophers and Coffee Pit. But that was just once a week, if we were lucky, and these days James—who hosted it—is remodeling his house and we haven’t met much. It’s unfortunate, because the minds in the room were stimulating, even if we sometimes spent more time talking than writing. I can write on my own; it’s the mental banter and brainstorming that I miss the most. I’ve needed a new office for some time now. And now I’ve found it.
Anchor is My Office
A couple months ago, I stumbled across the newest social media app, for iPhone, called Anchor. I’ve discussed it on my blog a few times since, even wrote a short post dedicated to the platform.
The unique thing about this new platform–and I hate that term when it comes to Anchor–is that it’s all audio recordings; they call them waves, to keep with the nautical theme. It’s a bit weird at first, because most of us hate to hear our own voice, but you get used to it fairly quickly, and most of the time I don’t listen to what I record, only what my friends say in response. And I have made tons of new friends on Anchor, from all over the World.
The beauty of Anchor, why I love it so much, is that it is full of creative people looking for positive solutions to the world’s problems.
Why is this? Quite frankly, I’m not sure, except that early adopters of new ideas and technology may be that way naturally. They are adventurous. They try new things, even if they have no idea how they work, or if they will be beneficial to them. This requires a good deal of optimism, I think.
And the fact that you have to use your voice to convey your message—instead of just copying and pasting text you got from somewhere else, or posting a stupid ‘meme’ to ram your political message down your friends’ throats—forces you to have real conversations with other real people, with nothing more than your voice. This tends to keep discussions positive, I believe, because it’s more difficult to be an asshole when you’re speaking to someone, than when you’re hiding behind text or images you copied from Facebook.
On Anchor, your friends can’t really see your face because the little face icon is too small to make out facial features. At first, that annoyed me, but now I think it’s awesome; we aren’t focused on what the person looks like, only the honesty in their voice. You have to actually listen, instead of just waiting to talk. And there IS a fuckin’ difference.
Finding My Mastermind
But for me, the most important thing about Anchor is that it has become my mastermind group. At any moment during the day, I can post a wave with a question about something I’m working on, or I can respond to something one of my friends is working on. And unlike most office spaces, not everyone is working for the same company, on the same or similar projects, in the same industry; we work for ourselves, or for companies producing all kinds of different products and services, all over the world.
It is this variety of experience, of expertise, that makes for such an amazing mastermind group. Instead of wasting time in a corporate office space, talking to the same people, day after day, mostly about what we had for dinner last night, or who’s having an affair with whom, or if we’re going to Wally World this summer, we discuss the meaning of life, self awareness and enlightenment, and how the world’s problems are rooted in Fear, and a plethora of other fascinating topics.
One of my best friends on Anchor, Andrew Jones, is creating a free website and mobile app called The Path We Take, to help teenagers and young adults with life’s big and small questions. Every morning he comes on Anchor and poses another question, many of which come from his high school students in New York, questions like:
“What 3 things should I have in my car?”
a question that kind quickly morphed into,
“What do you need for the Zombie Apocalypse?”
“How do you tell your parents something they don’t want to hear?”
“My friends betray me and spread rumors; what do I do?”
It’s an amazing project, and has been an inspiration to me and many others. And this is just one example of the creative stuff going on in Anchor. The answer to that last question is pretty easy, “You tell them to ‘fuck off’ because they aren’t really your friends.” Friends don’t do those things.
Another real friend of mine from Anchor, Ricardo Paes–who is from Portugal and lives in Japan where he teaches English–is an artist working on a graphic, fantasy novel entitled, Triadin: the Education of Rogar. I will be interviewing him this week as the very first guest in a new series of YouTube interviews that I’m going to call Second Breakfast with Steve Bivans. Keep your eye out for that!
I could mention twenty or more other friends on Anchor that have been a help to me, but I’ll save them for later articles, or Second Breakfast interviews.
Out of the Office
When I’m not able to interact with my friends on Anchor, I feel cut adrift: anchor-less, I suppose. The last couple of days have been that way, though I did check in briefly a couple of times. Personal responsibilities drew me away from the discussions at the water-cooler, so to speak, and I felt a bit out of sorts. So much so, that Tuesday afternoon I actually recorded a wave saying that I was ‘out of the office.’ I did this almost subconsciously, because I knew that my friends would miss my interaction, especially since I had just posted about my newest article in the How I Write series. So, to let them know that I would return soon by posting the ‘out of office’ message.
By late Tuesday evening, I still had not been able to respond to any of my friends’ comments, when I saw that Kristin Myers, one of the Anchor-team developers, had responded to my out of the office wave. Her message was very sweet and kind—like most waves on Anchor—and she was particularly taken by my comparison of Anchor with the office. In fact, it was her response that led me to write this blog post. Thanks Kristin! I’ve embedded the audio recording of my Out of the Office message, at the bottom of this article, to give you a flavor of what Anchor is all about.
What is the point of this rambling article?
I’m not sure, really, except to say that while driving to work in a parking lot sounds romantic, I’d much rather come to work by walking downstairs, in my pajamas, naked, or in my kilt. My friends on Anchor don’t mind that I’m naked; they just want to hear my voice, and I love to hear theirs.