By Laura Snyder
Nationally Syndicated Columnist
I was sitting in my rolling adjustable chair with my bare feet propped up on a plastic stool, peering at my computer and tweaking my column. Looking out my window, I saw that it was a beautiful day after a month of frigid weather.
Why am I inside the house today? Like many of you, I am self-syndicated, or freelance. I don’t have to punch a clock. Nobody will get mad if I show up at my desk late or leave early.
However, as freelancers, we have trained ourselves to act as if we have a job with set hours, because if we didn’t, we’d put off, procrastinate and, in general, be the kind of person we were when we were kids and our mother asked us to clean our room.
It’s good to be disciplined … but why can’t I do that outside? I decided that there was no good reason I couldn’t go out. As a matter of fact, I’ve scheduled myself to write a column later and I’m fairly certain no ideas would be jumping out of that stool on which my feet were resting.
I shuffled outside and immediately spied chalk drawings on my garage door. Aha! A column!… and a kid who would soon be elbow-deep in soap and hot water.
It happened so quickly, I almost missed it: If you want ideas for a column you have to get away from your desk.
Though it might be easier to convince a freelancer to get out of his or her office, a columnist with a desk job might find it difficult to tell the boss, “Um, I’m just not coming in this week. I’ll e-mail my work to you.”
Some of you have a job that requires you to leave the office and track down stories … and you get paid for that. I’m a little jealous.
For those of you who sit at a computer most of the day, think about detaching yourself from the office. Write at home, on the patio, or, ideally, on a warm tropical beach somewhere. That’s what laptops are for!
Where is all this coming from? Admittedly, I read a book called “4-Hour Work Week.” The author, Timothy Ferriss, is cocky, idealistic, and arrogant…. and, incidentally, he only works 4 hours a week and makes bazillions. The thing is, he has nobody to hang out with on the sunny beaches of Acapulco or race with in Monte Carlo, should he opt to go there, because everyone else is working. So, he is offering his expertise on how to do it in his book.
When I read his book, my first thought was that not everyone could make his plan work. However, my second thought was that columnists are in a unique position to be able to implement his suggestions and create a 4-hour work week for themselves.
Not only would you work less, but you can work those 4 hours from anywhere in the world. Where would you go if you only had to work 4 hours in any given week? What would you do? Even if you couldn’t free up as much time as Ferriss says is possible, maybe you could free up a lot more than you have now.
The benefits of working from somewhere with a view are many, but the ones your boss will want to hear are:
1. You will be more productive with less office noise and interruptions. More work in less time.
2. More and fresher ideas will come when you are in a variety of venues.
3. The boss will not have to pay for the space you are taking up.
In a perfect world, if you produced more quality work in less time and it cost your boss less in overhead, he/she could afford to pay you more. Yeah, and I just saw a dinosaur sitting in my birdbath (read: won’t happen).
The types of columns that would lend themselves nicely to this lifestyle are as varied as the places at which you could write them.
A travel column would be ideal, of course, even if it was day or weekend road trips for your local paper. What about a dining column? I’ll bet that the local cuisine in Key West, Florida would be fascinatingly unlike what you might find in Bangor, Maine.
You could write a column about people, cultures, and traditions in different areas of your state, the region, the nation or even the world if you can find an editor to foot the bill.
I’ve even written about transportation in different areas: A mule ride in the Grand Canyon, a monorail in Las Vegas, a golf cart on BaldHeadIsland.
The point I’m trying to make is this: If you want a fresh perspective, more appealing topics, and something besides the same old thing, you have to get away from your desk. You can surf the Internet for topics to write about, but there is nothing fresher than life … as it’s happening.
Can’t you hear your mom? She always said, “Go outside and play!” Her advice is still good.Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and speaker from Southern Pines, N.C. She serves as NSNC treasurer. You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit her Web site www.lauraonlife.com.