The Freewheeling Lunches of a Freelance Writer

May 18, 2016

Since going freelance in August, my kitchen has become my office and I’ve been in a constant process of figuring out how to be a functioning version of myself. I tried to join a coworking space but I never went. There’s a desk in my room but it’s usually covered with water glasses and receipts and it’s too close to my bed.

Our kitchen table has nice light. I work there, and sometimes I work at the stove, because it’s my job. Three years ago (or so?) I started the Not Sad Desk Lunch column, inspired by my now-friend Kira’s smart Tumblr Sad Desk Lunch, and now I’ve found myself in a new sort of predicament where I have all the freedom to make what I want but no desire to ever do dishes. It’s a total pleasure, yes, but there’s also a weird guilt in taking thirty minutes to prepare lunch while people are sending you emails. Sometimes I measure my days by the height of the pots and plates in my sink.

The thing about working alone and inside your house is that you become a little person inside the cosmos of your own brain and your thoughts are the only thing to surround or inform you, so you have to bring in external things, like media and ingredients, to remind yourself of an outside world. (Walks help, too.) Plus chopping is a busy thing to do with hands that don’t feel like typing.

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I have no semblance of a routine. People say routine is important for freelancers but I’m no good at it. At the outset of my life of freedom I went all in on lunch: I’d spend a bunch of time preparing it and convince myself that it had to be something enormous and special. I kept thinking of Phyllis’ citrus salad with goat cheese-stuffed dates: Imagine if you could live like this every day. It became… exhausting? You’re allowed to hate me now.

Since then, I’ve settled at some sort of middle ground. There are some things I’ve found, or some things I try to remember. Like: Don’t forget about salads, they are good, and one of the most satisfying lunches to eat at home because you can really go all-in on the dressing and herbs and bulky things like grains and a cooked egg, and also you feel good after you eat them. Isn’t it nice to eat a salad for lunch? Anything with eggs, really, because unless you’ve boiled them or sliced up a frittata, they aren’t easy to eat at work, so this feels special. Sometimes I’ll make soup, if I have some broth and greens and beans and maybe pasta, something Italian-y.* If there are leftovers to dress up, I’ll do that; we’re not so different, you and I.

But there are times when you’ve spent too much of your morning scrolling and clicking instead of writing and invoicing so you tell yourself you don’t have much time and these are the sorts of days when bread is good. Toasted and spread with whatever you can find, like peanut butter or ricotta. I don’t keep hummus around (why?), but that would be nice too. Yes, sure, avocado. Or I’ll fry a slice of bread and fry an egg and then just get back to what I was doing because all I used is one pan and let’s be honest, we don’t always clean out our cast irons. Whatever I do, I try to remember that it’s better than Tupperware and fluorescent light, even if here there’s linoleum and a stack of dishes and nobody to talk to but the internet.

*I just want to say that recently a man told me that “Italian food is unimaginative” and I almost threw my cookie at him, can you even believe it. Never date.

What do you make for lunch when you're working from home? Tell us in the comments below!

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



klrcon May 19, 2016
Just want to say - I absolutely would have thrown the cookie so I applaud you on your self-control. And that's half the battle with freelancing so hang in there. I'm sure you'll figure it out.
Also, long time freelancer here - lunch, sometimes out, sometimes just something simple but good at home - is the best way I've found of motivating myself to get up and get to work in the morning. As in, oh, no, if I don't get my writing done I won't have time for anything but crackers and cheese at my desk. There's something awesome about taking a mid-day break and I think it's actually one of the best things about the freelance life - no sad desk lunches. The trick is to never ever check your email before your lunch break - or during- only after. Good luck!
Two T. May 18, 2016
Love this post. My husband and I are both freelancing/working from home for the past several months and I relate! How do you cook for two for something like 'lunch' which is supposed to hust happen in 20 minutes or be outsourced? It sure makes me have to do a bit more planning but it saves so much mula, I think, which can only be good for freelancers ; )
Susige May 18, 2016
I work at home but usually eat out for lunch so I can have some companionship or run errands and eat on the fly. I love to cook (usually dinners) and I can tell how long it's been since I washed dishes by the number of wine glasses stacked by the sink. ;0
GigiB May 18, 2016
Marian, I enjoyed reading this and I related to your predicament. I wouldn't qualify as a worker at home as much as a stayer at home. I'll say being a mom to three boys is plenty of work. It's made me a much better cook because in cooking I found an affordable creative outlet that helps my family stay alive. I remember when I first stopped working in a traditional environment and the lack of routine sucked. Hang in there! Create a routine, it's such a nice thing to have. Getting over that hurdle will make you feel grand and accomplished. Then you can write a blog post about establishing said routine and I will gobble it all up and try to apply it to the gaps in my life. Cheers!