Working from home has its disadvantages – lying around, eating cold lasagne

Hilary Fannin: You sometimes end up poring over adult-education leaflets

Hours can wither while you wonder if your life would be significantly improved by mastering conversational Italian or tapestry making. Photograph: iStock

Hours can wither while you wonder if your life would be significantly improved by mastering conversational Italian or tapestry making. Photograph: iStock

 

So January is finally over, folks. It’s time to leave your thermals at home, to stop hacking your lungs out all night and wheezing your way through the day before falling asleep on the bus back from the office.

Looking out on the morning rain (as the song goes), I’ve been counting myself seriously lucky this weather to work at home. This feeling of good fortune has a lot to do with not having to commute farther than the garden shed and also, being self-employed, with not having any rules about naps.

Nor, for that matter, are there any protocols about lying on the floor in a brief patch of sunlight, when the clouds finally part, to daydream. Indeed, the only arched brows and sceptical looks I receive when I’m horizontal on my mephitic shag pile, staring at the sky, tend to come from the largely blind old moggie, who might occasionally mistake me for a bowl of chunky poultry in succulent jelly.

Of course, working from home has its disadvantages too. For example, you can, at this time of year, spend an awful lot of time poring over the adult-education leaflets that come wafting through the letterbox.

The actuality of home-working is that, for all the time spent flagrantly sitting on your backside, you do finally have to meet your deadlines

Hours can wither while you wonder if your life would be significantly improved by mastering conversational Italian or tapestry making, or by doing a night course in injectable aesthetics.

The actuality of home-working is that, for all the time spent eating cold lasagne, sleeping, or flagrantly sitting on your backside in front of reruns of My 600lb Life (if you haven’t already seen it, don’t ask – honestly, you don’t want to know), you do finally have to meet your deadlines.

I recently had an interesting and wide-ranging conversation with Dr Sabina Brennan, research psychologist, neuroscientist and author of the number-one bestseller 100 Days to a Younger Brain. Halfway through a mug of herbal tea – it was the morning – and reminiscences about our childhoods (she and I are the same age and grew up in adjoining neighbourhoods), we began to talk about work and, in particular, what happens to the brain when we ask it to engage creatively.

I won’t even attempt to regurgitate the beautiful science that Dr Brennan brought to the table . . . Oh, all right, I will, but you’ll have to forgive the brutalist paraphrasing. Essentially, she explained the functions of the hippocampus and the amygdala and how the information-transmitting neurons in the brain fire each other up. As I listened, I imagined a crack of lightning across a night sky.

She talked, too, about the importance of allowing ourselves to turn up to our work without pressurising the brain into thinking that it’s got to produce pyrotechnics by the morning tea break.

Perhaps this is the time to make a more real resolution, to resist those feelings of unworthiness and encourage the daydreams to take us where they will

She spoke about the value of allowing the mind to freewheel a little. And this time I remembered convent desks, and running my fingers around the edge of the inkwell, and tall boxed windows, and birds flitting through each squared-off frame – and then the crack of a wooden ruler across the knuckles and being told to pay attention to the blackboard.

Daydreaming. I’d love to have been able to tell the wimpled warriors of my childhood to leave me alone, that daydreaming was just a way of firing up the neurons and letting the brain breathe. That would have gone down like a bucket of sick puppies, eh?

Believe me, I know how rarefied and self-indulgent this sounds, all this lying around on the floor and looking at the clouds and tootling around in the garden shed with a laptop and a cold coffee, and yes, it’s been years since I’ve had to clock in to work at 8am and begin my day in a sluice room. All I can say is that I’m deeply grateful for the way things have panned out. I’m aware of how privileged I am to live and work in the way I do.

I often meet people of my generation, and Dr Brennan’s, who tell me that they’d like to write but don’t know how, people who say they have stories inside them, stories caged in self-doubt maybe, in a belief that they themselves are not good enough to write, or draw, or make a piece of work from their memories and imagination.

Well, we’re leaving the darkness of January behind us now, so perhaps this is the time to make a more real resolution, to resist those feelings of unworthiness and encourage the daydreams to take us where they will.

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