Working alone, together

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Brilliant Noise OfficeWriting is, essentially, a lonely business. It’s just you, a keyboard and as much focus as you can bring to a task. I’m in the midst of a long piece of writing now, for a Brilliant Noise project. This is exactly the sort of work I could comfortably do from home, relaxing with my own coffee and my lovely view of the Adur. So, what brings me to Brighton on the days devoted to this project? Why am I sat in Brilliant Noise’s offices, being anti-social with my headphones on?

There are three reasons:

Alone in company

Working on something alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. There is a certain comfort in being surrounded by friendly faces. It’s the basic principle behind co-working spaces, and it holds for projects like this. I have the chance to interact with my editor on the project, and the co-founders overseeing the project, as well as the rest of the staff. I haven’t over-used that today – I’ve had maybe 10 minutes of conversation along the way. But it’s there, and it’s useful human contact.

Shifting my headspace

That human contact isn’t with my wife and daughter. I love the pair of them very deeply indeed, and they’re part of the reason I’m working like this. It’s one way of bringing in enough cash alongside my wife’s earnings to give them a good life, but also spend some decent time with them. I work a four day week, devoting Fridays to caring for my daughter. Believe me, I’ve never looked forward to the end of the week as much as I do now, knowing it’s going to be all Daddy/daughter time. But to really focus on a writing project, I need to close all that down in my head, and get myself in a focused headspace. Here, I’m sat with my laptop on a big desk to myself, with virtually no distractions and my writing app in fullscreen mode. The physical movement down the coast and into an office, with the short train journey, signals to my brain that it’s time to get into work mode.

Working from home is great when I need to get a lot of disparate tasks done in a day. When I need to do longform writing, being away from the nagging feeling that I should do a load of washing is useful.

Guilt and Inspiration

I’m an independent worker these days. I’m usually working on a day or project rate. Sitting amongst the people I’m working for is a great invcentive to deliver value-for-money to them. That’s the guilt side. I can see the people who’s money I’m taking. That’s a more concrete transaction when they’re sat in my eyeline. There’s also the inspiration effect – they’re a skilled, creative bunch, and the ideas bouncing around the office encourage me to up my game. I don’t want to be the one whose work is a little below the others. Is there a little competitive spirit in there? Sure – but that’s a good thing.

(This is the second in a linked series of posts about how I work. The first was published last week – and there are more to come.)

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.