Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Hours

"The hours are hell, but the cash is starting to tumble in."
-Bud Fox, from the movie, "Wall Street."

I'll agree with the fictional Bud Fox on one front, the hours I work would be hell if it wasn't something I love doing (unfortunately, the cash isn't tumbling in to the tune of being able to buy a condo on the upper East side). On average, I put in at least 50-60 hours a week writing or managing the business of writing. But I wouldn't trade that in for a 40 hour work week in corporate hell anyday.
When I was in the corporate world, I worked 40 hours a week and commuted at least another five, which meant I was devoting at least 45 hours a week to a job I hated that for me, served no purpose other than making money to pay our bills and have nice things. Sure, I could stop at a travel agency on a whim on the way home for a spontaneous trip to California for a weekend, but even that signaled my need to get away. I rarely have that need now.
In the corporate world, we had schedules. I'm a morning person, most of my creative brain is alive first thing. But if you didn't have seniority in a department, you had to wait for the early morning shift to become available. And when I did get to work, we had this horrible computer demon called TACT that registered when you signed onto your computer. If you were more than two minutes early, you sat around tapping your toes until the system allowed you to time in. If you were more than two minutes late, well, three of those guaranteed you a meeting with your line supervisor. And it didn't matter if you stayed over to make up your 3-5 minute transgression, or was first in your department making your quota. Enough three minute tardies would very well get you fired.
Makes me shudder just thinking about it.
As a small business owner, my performance is truly based on what I get done during the day, no matter what time I get it done. If my husband works crazy hours and I want to spend 2 hours in the middle of the day cooking a meal and then sitting down with him before he leaves, I can do it. If my mother is ill or one of my animal kids need to see a doctor, I can leave. As long as my assignments get done, my editors are happy. They don't care when I do them.
I once caved into an editor who begged me to come to work for him. I tried to explain that I do my best work early in the morning, that I needed to have the earliest shift available so I could come home and spend a couple hours with my husband. He said he understood and he didn't care when or where I worked, as long as my beat was covered and my stories were done.
It wasn't true. Most newspapers are held hostage by the corporate environment other companies bow to. Long gone are the 2-drink lunches with sources and reporters absent from their desks until they begin writing on deadline. There were timecards (at least in this newsroom), that made reporters sign out and then back in, no matter how many times you had to leave the office for meetings, interviews, fires, murders or going home to finish work while spending quality time with family. I couldn't do it, it reminded me too much of TACT.
So, today, I'm in my office by 7. I'll leave to fix dinner and go and see my mother and with any luck, be back to work until 8-9 tonight.
But damn, I love these hours.


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