I crossed and recrossed my legs uncomfortably, picked cat hair off my skirt, and leaned away from the passenger sitting beside me as the 195 bus made its way in fits and starts into the city.
Only several hours before, I’d been having a Skype video chat with fellow writer and YEC member Dave Ursillo about community-building. He had recently launched an online community for writers, but our conversation inevitably wound its way to in-person events.
The writer’s life is so solitary, I’d told him. I think it’s important that someone provides in-person events, so that writers can be around other writers. Who else wants to talk about the work that we do ad nauseum. Not my husband!
I’d meant it. Four years before, I’d hosted a successful Word Nerd Networking event with Marian Schembari. And it had immediately been obvious that writers were craving more, writer-centric interaction.
Still, now that I found myself on a bus into the city, on my way to a meeting with a possible new copywriting client, I couldn’t help being a complete crankypants.
Why couldn’t we do this over the phone? I thought to myself. Or on Skype? What could we possibly accomplish in a face-to-face meeting that we couldn’t accomplish virtually?
I glared at my seatmate out of the corner of my eye. It’s not fair, I thought. Traveling back and forth between NJ and NYC takes four times the amount of time the meeting itself will take. This is eating into my work hours!
I compulsively checked email and Twitter on my phone. What if this project doesn’t come through? What if this was all a big, fat waste of my time? WHY DID I EVER AGREE TO THIS!?
A little over an hour later, after a pleasant, leisurely walk down to the Flatiron district, I found myself in a wine bar around the corner from Eataly, sipping cappuccino with my client and discussing branding and tone. It felt good putting a face to the voice I’d heard on the phone the week before, and as we talked Facebook and Twitter strategy, I found myself getting excited about the work ahead. It seemed right up my alley, and I felt confident that I could do the job well… and enjoy it in the process.
Also, the cappuccino was damn good.
As we wrapped up, the client promised to send along a work agreement the next day. We shook hands and, as I headed over a few blocks to catch the N train back up to the Port Authority, there was a bounce in my step.
I’m so glad we did this! I thought. That was so lovely.*
As the cherry on top, I made it home in time for my evening yoga class, after which I headed over to a friend’s house to test drive her latest batch of homemade junk food. She’s a food writer, and was developing recipes for her forthcoming book, Classic Snacks Made from Scratch. As I sat there, chocolate crumbs in my cleavage (that’s where all my crumbs inevitably end up), I thanked the heavens for my writerly community. After all, there was something to be said for getting out of the damn house, interacting with non-felines, and being fed.
The next afternoon, I packed up my laptop and headed over to my favorite, local coffee shop, where I was meeting an old high school friend for lunch and coworking. Once there, I sucked down a rice pudding froho and nibbled on an eggplant panini while aimlessly hopscotching between browser tabs and refreshing Twitter. Every so often, one or the other of us would make an observation about lit mags or the pitch process but, for the most part, we were silent. As three hours crawled by, my eyes slowly glazed over. Finally, resigned to the fact that I wasn’t getting anything done, I slammed my laptop closed and announced I was leaving.
I usually enjoy coworking at the cafe. The change of scenery is nice, and it’s also a great opportunity to talk shop. But you know what? Though there is something to be said for getting out of the damn house and spending time with other writers, there’s only so much social interaction this introvert can take before she needs to cuddle up with her cats and pass out.
Where do you seek out social interaction as an at-home freelancer? And how much is enough?
*If you think that was a dramatic mood shift, you should live with me. Always delightful.