Allow me to introduce my new favourite word – catastrotunity. Yes, I know it’s terrible, an affront to language. A word so bad, so wrong and ugly it should not exist. But sometimes the wrong word comes along at the right time and makes perfect sense. Sometimes that word is brought to you by a cartoon penguin. (Trust me on this.)
I love working from home – it’s a huge privilege. Not for a moment do I take it for granted. Years of battling through the rush hour to jobs that managed to be both boring and stressful, while paying most of my wages out again in childcare, mean I am very aware of how lucky I am to be able to do it now, even temporarily.
At first, it was perfect. I was strict. I had rules. I didn’t do housework, meet friends for coffee, stick a wash on, nip out for shopping or make phone calls. I even disabled my wifi so I wasn’t distracted by the internet. Those who implied ‘working from home’ was a euphemism for pyjama-clad skiving were sternly corrected.
But somehow, despite all that, at the start of this year my productivity went down the plughole. Creatively I felt scattered and unable to focus. I was clutching at the edges of ideas but not getting a proper hold of any. The more I berated myself for this, the worse it got.
In an effort to break out of this vicious circle, I decided to try a change of location. I started taking the bus into town and working in the library. The atmosphere of hushed communal concentration felt both supportive and liberating. The travelling time wasn’t a loss since I was more focussed in the remaining time. Even editing at home in the evenings became fun again. Hooray! Problem solved!
Then they closed the library for refurbishment. Catastrophe! Back to square one. I tried another library but got stuck next to a two-finger typist who stabbed at his laptop so hard it made the whole table shake. Not ideal. Unless you like stories of extreme violence set in libraries.
I started breaking my working-from-home rules, going out and doing other things instead of beating my head conscientiously off my desk. One of the lazy and self-indulgent things I did was visit an art exhibition. What a slacker! But with my creativity in meltdown, I was fishing for inspiration.
The exhibition was in an abandoned office block now rented by an arts charity. It’s used by a variety of creative folk – artists, printmakers, phd students, photographers, writers. And, here comes the opportunity part… me! After chatting to one of the artists exhibiting that day, the conversation somehow led to me securing a desk, for far less than it’d cost me in coffee to lurk in cafés. I’m writing this blog in the 5th floor common room, always deserted until lunchtime. I love the feel of this place. My productivity is on an upward swing again.
That’s why I forgive the penguin. The night before the exhibition, watching cartoons with the kids, a pink rhino accidentally sat on a penguin. Another yelled, horrified, ‘It’s a catastrophe!’ The third penguin looked at him with a strange light in his eyes and said ‘No, it’s not. It’s a CATASTROTUNITY!’ At the time I winced but the next day, that magnificently hideous word presented itself as the perfect, the only, way to describe my unexpected reversal of fortune. Hats off, Mr Penguin, I shall never doubt you again.