What It Takes

What It Takes

Spend Your Time

By Callie Oettinger | Published: December 1, 2017

I. The patient took the pain medicine as prescribed and didn’t understand why the doctor was upset.

Patient’s point of view: He was in pain and followed the instructions on the bottle.

Doctor’s point of view: The pain medicine was prescribed by the patient’s veterinarian, for the patient’s dog.

II. The drug rep walked into the doctor’s office dressed as the Grim Reaper and didn’t understand why the doctor asked him to leave.

Drug rep’s point of view: It was Halloween, he was having fun.

Doctor’s point of view: He had patients with life-threatening diseases/illnesses. The last thing they needed was to be met by the Grim Reaper upon a visit to their doctor’s office.

III. The office manager put examination table paper on all of the doctor’s examination tables and didn’t understand why the doctor asked him to remove it.

Office manager’s point of view: It was free paper provided by a drug company and would save money.

Doctor’s point of view: It was flat out wrong to have a young teenage girl sitting on examination table paper that advertised a drug for erectile dysfunction.

These are true stories (well true, but with a few tweaks . . . ).

They make me laugh because they are real examples of real people doing what real people often do best—fail to fully think through their actions in advance.

I value the stories because they are real examples of real people, taking real actions that I never would have been able to make up on my own.

To obtain these stories I had to 1) experience them myself or 2) lift the stories from the doctor to whom they belonged. I went with the latter.

I’ve been working out of my home office since 2001. The upside of working alone: No other people. The downside of working alone: No other people.

I’ve never wished myself back into a traditional office, but at the same time, I often feel the walls around me becoming more comfortable and harder to leave.

I have everything I need—and if I don’t have it, I can order it online—except for great experiences.

With a few exceptions, all of my great stories occurred pre-2001—or when on vacation from the home office.

We talk a lot on this site about keeping our time safe, not wasting it, doing the work instead of becoming distracted by the rest of life and the people within it. But… We miss a lot if we go too far.

As the end of 2017 approaches, and so many of us think about the changes for the next year, I want to encourage all of you to get out of your office.

The sounds of the streets help inform musicians. The colors of the sky speak to painters. The actions of everyday people inspire the writers.

It’s important to save your time, but you’ve got to spend it, too.

Posted in What It Takes

21 Responses to “Spend Your Time”

  1. December 1, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Love it. We like to keep track of the fun stuff we hear around the office. For example:

    “Would you rather be a ‘paradigm disruptor’ or a ‘key opinion leader’?”
    “I want to be an ‘anonymous source.’”

    ***** or

    “I don’t think I’ll bother with an IM. I’ll just go over there and mouth-tweet at her.”

    *****

    Fun way to start a Friday morning. Thank ya, Callie.

  2. Mary Doyle
    December 1, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Thanks Callie – a great “food for thought” post to end the week!

  3. December 1, 2017 at 6:18 am

    Callie,
    I did a ride-along with a police officer yesterday. I felt the familiar tugs of the locker room, guys busting each other’s chops, the excitement when we raced to a dangerous call—and I kept thinking–should I become a cop? Do I miss this energy? This camaraderie?

    The answer: No, I should not, but yes I do miss the excitement, the energy, and the locker room. I will train these guys instead–but there is a big world out there.

    Oh–the sadness they see everyday would overwhelm me. I also know that I’m not immune to the environment-it leaves marks on/in me.

    Thanks for the great post.
    bsn

  4. December 1, 2017 at 6:22 am

    this is the main reason, I would not be a fan of home-office. I know, the way to work and back is sometimes exhausting and the constant noise in the background tastes like the crunching of teeth, but I have to feed the muse.

  5. Michael Beverly
    December 1, 2017 at 6:30 am

    I had to learn to become an introvert.

  6. December 1, 2017 at 6:43 am

    It’s not time alone writing or working in the office that threatens my connection to the world. It’s time alone wasted on false connections of Facebook, or on the septic stream of morning news that never changes. My synapses wither under the assualt by meaningless media.

    Time to stand, pull on my gear and go walk, face up to the rain.

    Thanks, Callie.

  7. Julia Murphy
    December 1, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Thanks, Callie

  8. December 1, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Thanks! A timely reminder to live.

  9. Sam
    December 1, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Great column. So much writing advice reinforces the notion of a monastic existence locked away in a dark room, pecking at the keys all day every day. I’ve always needed the breaks from solitude (and frankly, writing itself) my freelance day job affords me.

  10. Bonnie Marie Benson
    December 1, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Spot on, Callie.
    Thanks!

  11. December 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I think this post reflects a lifelong conflict and opportunity for writers. We have to be in life to know it, but we have to retreat to write about it. Balance is key, even if it’s an elusive and impossible thing to achieve.

  12. Dick Yaeger
    December 1, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Right on! Wednesday, I was on a private tour of the massive San Jose police department to augment a detective story (my first) I’m writing. In a large bustling room of cubicles, computer screens, and officers milling about, I asked my guide to pause for a few moments so I could take in the sounds and smells. Can’t get that from a home office.

  13. Jen
    December 1, 2017 at 9:34 am

    This was a fun read and made me laugh. Great advice, Callie.

  14. December 1, 2017 at 9:54 am

    That was spot on Callie! Think of your office, studio, gym as an oasis and arena in which to partner with your Muse. The world and universe beyond is a plentiful field of ideas, characters, and all sorts of stories… great place to visit but coming home is always the preference. In the same way that a “Ship in Harbor Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For” a writer who has never lived, or an athlete that has never competed are limited to name/title alone… amateurs. Sometimes you have to go outside (really outside your comfort zone) to appreciate/understand the inside. Cheers!

  15. December 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you, Callie. A great warning for one who is in the process of developing her own safe harbor writing space.

  16. December 1, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Perfect advice for those getting comfortable in their day to day . . . stories come from unusual experiences and adversity!

  17. December 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Yes Callie! I so agree. Get out. Live life. Have random conversations. Listen to others. Meander. See the neighborhood you live in with new eyes and the curiosity of a newcomer. And more… It will feed the creative muse.

  18. December 3, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Spot-on!

  19. Christine
    December 3, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    This post reminds me that I don’t need to feel demoralized: the crazy goings-on and inane decisions at my place of work can be viewed as rich material for new creative projects. My new week’s resolution will be to chuckle and take copious notes.

  20. December 4, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I suspect the value is not just in seeing life going on, but in having your own version of reality tested. For example, a part of me still thinks students physically have long hair and mentally want to grow up to be more idealistic than the establishment.

    From one of Paul Graham’s essays, a scientist said that if you work with your door closed you get more focus work, but after ten years you are somehow less original. Again, I think you need the friction of innocent challenges to your reality.

    So yes, let’s get outside and get involved.

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