I've only been out for ten weeks or so. Or rather, of course, I mean in. At the grand old age of 49, I've started to work from home, as a writer, after twenty-eight years of working in a college. No more division of days into periods, modules, doubles, sessions, lessons, lectures - whichever phrase was fashionable at any given time. Where I worked, there were no bells, but they went off in your head anyway. So those Quasimodo moments are things of the past.

That's the main change. It should be the main challenge, too, I suppose - forcing one's way out of bed, averting one's eyes from the newspaper, refusing to be hooked on morning television - or radio. Suddenly, you're able to find out what happens on Start The Week with Melvyn Bragg, when you've only ever heard the trailers. The temptation to hear all that adenoidally cod philosophy!

Actually, it doesn't work like that, or perhaps I don't. Not for a single tick since I went self-employed, and knew that work was just a few paces away, have I been seduced by the attractions of having a quiet holiday. A holi-half-an-hour, perhaps. Otherwise, the day is all about momentum, and the difference is that I sit on the toad work; it doesn't squat on me at all. People were full of advice about patterns and habits and new routines, but momentum was the only important word anyone really offered.

To start with, there were faint pangs of guilt if I stepped outside the door. Seeing the village in which I live (Morchard Bishop) in broad daylight, visiting the post office on a weekday, ruminating in the graveyard on life, death but mainly the next paragraph - these all seemed initially like illicit pleasures. That wore off after about a week. In fact, the main thing about working at home is how paralysingly normal it seems.

The most obvious change is in the nature of conversation. On an average day at college, I would perhaps have spoken to about a hundred people - glancing hellos, brow-furrowing discussions, banter, verbal skirmishing, the politesse and politics of work, all of these. Now the silence is intense. I don't even hear the clatter of the keyboard (I can't write to music - it interferes with the rhythms of thought). Do I talk to myself? Yes, there's time to catch up on that conversation, I suppose. But then the brainwag was always going on: it's just that I have time to reply.

E-mail helps. There are a lot of other home-workers out there, and there's the freedom of e-conversation. That kind of sporadic chat breaks up the day, but they are conversations you can control. They take place in slow motion ("How are you?" on Monday, "Fine" on Friday week.) Working from home gets rid of interruptions. The rhythm and tempo of the day adjust themselves to you like familiar clothes.

Could work naked, I suppose, if I wanted, but do I want the postman to think I'm a flasher? He's not my type. But there's no denying that the slob factor is part of working from home. You can give yourself a dressing-down to an even greater extent than ever. Your feet hardly need to see a pair of socks. On the other hand, when your home is your work-place, you are far more tempted to keep it tidy. This is the world's worst sorter, swabber and mopper speaking, by the way. But even my sensationally low standards have risen a little.

I've lost half a stone without trying (unless it's down the back of the sofa). Plenty more work needed on the body mass index yet, I'm afraid, but there's no pressure any more to compound the poundage. Working from home is potentially much more healthy, although I can see that the reverse might be true if you were a snackaholic. In my case, I feel no compulsion to launch search-and-destroy missions on the fridge, to be home on the range through the larder. When the workplace was a separate entity, there was plenty of comfort eating and drinking - and a binge when you arrived home. That's gone. I haven't had coffee in a polystyrene cup for weeks now. The withdrawal symptoms were far easier to manage than I'd imagined.

The eyes take a pasting, of course. You have to make an effort to drag yourself away from the screen if you're writing from home - have to force yourself to use notebooks and biros, and not to be sucked into the vortex of WordPro 97, my poison program of choice. Making sure that your limbs aren't hunched and clenched all day is quite hard. Sometimes the adrenalin of deadlines feels like a ten-mile hike. Alas, it isn't even halfway round a writer's block. You have to snap a chapter shut and go for a guilt-free stretch of the legs. A sustained creative burst is always lousy with bad grammar, anyway. You have to give it time to settle.

One occasional misconception made by acquaintances is that you are just resting, most of the time. I mean, you're at home, aren't you? You're free to do what you want? Well, not if you want to have cash in the bank, or even under the bed. It helps the momentum to think of the mortgage. It also helps to think of the person who is really experiencing change - your partner. Curiously enough, my experience of change is minimal. I'm just driving a different car, metaphorically speaking. One that doesn't travel. But your partner will experience things differently - will think that the changes are huge and profound and potentially difficult for you. The fallacy here is that you made the choice in your head, so you adjusted to the idea a long while back. But for partners of those who are new to working from home, the conceptual change is, for them, colossal. When they come home, you're in. It's important that they don't feel you've gone out (as in, like a light). Meanwhile: work sweet work. It's where the heart is.

From Connect