Dressing for Work as a Writer

dressing for work the tug-o-war between prfessional and comfortable
Credit: www.heligirl.com

There has for some time now been a tug-of-war going on between two schools of thought about how writers should dress when they go to “work”. On one end of the rope we have the combatants who advocate dressing for comfort: if that means a well broken-in sweat suit and bedroom slippers, then so be it. On the other end are those who insist that writers treat their writing like a job and dress appropriately, just as if they were going to work in an office with dozens of other people. This is not necessarily a power suit, but at least a dress shirt and slacks for men, and equivalent for women.

Both camps have some compelling arguments in their favor. Let’s look at them. 

Dressing for Work

The argument that if you are going to be successful as a professional writer, you must treat it as a business, for indeed it is a business, has merit. The psychological aspect of “going to work”, of focusing on tasks that must be accomplished, of recognizing your deadlines, and properly dealing with other people in your writing career is aided by being dressed for business and working in a business-like environment.

Dressing for work helps to achieve the proper mind-set for “going to work”, especially if you work from your home.

It is especially important if your work involves dealing with clients. Being in a professional mindset will help you maintain a professional demeanor. It is vitally important if you will be seeing these clients (and they you) either by personal contact or video conferencing. If you want business people to treat you as a business person, you must appear to these business people as a fellow business person.

Dressing for Comfort

On the opposite side of the mud puddle are the folks who insist that dressing for comfort unleashes their creativity. By catering to their baser nature they remove distractions that will impede the flow of words from their mind to their keyboard.

They argue that if they’re not going to see anyone else, why put on a show?

The Big Mud Puddle

And so the arguments go, with each team trying to pull the other into their way of thinking. Both sides have valid arguments, but not all points made by each will be applicable to all writers. Herein lies the difference.

It does seem to me that the majority of those advocating wearing office attire while “working” are copywriters. Those who advocate padding around in flannel PJs and fuzzy slippers are at the creative writing end of the spectrum; novelists, freelance magazine writers, professional bloggers and the like. It would seem that the Modus Clotherendi you choose will depend on two things: One is the likelihood of your dealing with other people, and who those other people are. The other is your attitude and discipline level.

If the only person outside of your family you might possibly see is your agent who video-skypes you every few days for an update on your book, it probably won’t matter much if you appear in an oversized sweatshirt that says “World’s Greatest Mommy” on the front. This would be quite inappropriate if you will be video conferencing with one or more business people to whom you are trying to sell your services or delivering a report to your contact at ABC MegaCorp about the project you are working on for them.

Your attitude about your work will also come into play. If working at home and wearing a sweat-suit and slippers would make it too tempting to slip away for a quick nap instead of working on your projects, then more business-like attire would be indicated just to keep you on-task. If you are self-disciplined enough to keep working even if you are in a pair of pajamas, and any contact with business people will be by telephone or e-mail, then you’ve earned the right to wear what you like.

As For Me

As I write this article I am wearing the sweat suit I wore to bed last night, a bathrobe and slippers. But then, I got up to write this at 4:30 am. My wife had no intention of getting up at that hour and turning on lights so I could dig around in my closet to get clothing would have been very unkind of me. In a while, she will get up and we will both dress for work. After breakfast she will drive into town and her office I will pack up my lap-top and walk out behind our house to the building that contains my office.

What I wear to work depends on what I have scheduled to do. Most days I wear a tee shirt and jeans because it is quite likely that when I take a break from writing I will go out to putter in our vegetable garden, or mow some grass or chainsaw some logs into chunks to split for firewood, or any number of such tasks. If I am going into town to meet with someone later, I’ll put on a dress shirt and slacks for a neater appearance. If he or she is a business mucky-muck I’ll put on a suit, but I’ll shed the tie and jacket the moment I get back to my office.

I do my best creative writing early in the mornings, before distractions begin crowding in on me, while my mind is fresh. Our home is quite small, so our home office is a corner of the dining room. My office is in a separate building and it contains all my files. The idea was to help me keep home and work separated, but that hasn’t worked out so well! When inspiration strikes, I write. When projects pile up, I write more. But it’s a good life and I love it.

What About You?

What do you wear when you write? Do you write full time or is it a part-time activity at this point? When do you do most of your writing? Where do you do your writing? And what kind of writing do you do the most of?

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Dressing for Work as a Writer”

  1. You’re right about dressing up if you’re likely to see someone at a business level, like a copywriting client. That doesn’t happen with me. If it’s cold (as it is now) it’s jeans and a sweat shirt. If it’s hot, it’s shorts and a T shirt.

    But then, I tend to treat writing more as a hobby in retirement than a business.

    1. I think the whole issue really only applies to the copywriter/journalism end of the business. Novelists are a breed unto themselves. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. 🙂

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