In defense of Solo-working: Because working with certain people sucks

Co-working and shared workspaces are all the rage, but every time I hear a hackerspace advocate talk about that sense of community and how it’s better than working alone in your dark basement, I shudder a little.  It’s wonderful that people are finding ways to team up and have more than any of them could on their own, and I love hearing about the serendipitous moments of genius that arise because the right people were in the same room at the right time.

But to me, “sense of community” often means “lots of people I’m not that attached to but spend unjustifiable amounts of time with, and a social contract that I don’t necessarily agree with”.  I feel like hackerspaces and co-working joints come with an expectation that you’re looking for new buddies, but I already struggle to find time to spend with the most important people in my life, and these spaces can feel like a social time-suck.

By contrast, my basement, desk, back yard, etc, are oases of creativity for me.  I have all my stuff, all my ideas, my own kitchen with my favorite teas and snacks, the commute can’t be beat, and most of all, there is quiet space to concentrate and unwind with no social distractions.  This is important because when I’m at my most creative, I’m often very non-verbal.  To be fair, I own my house so if I want to paint a room green, or use a battery of chemicals to clean vintage tile, or take over the kitchen to make hand lotion, by golly, I just do it.

Contrary to, say, the Indy Hall mantra that goes “Because working alone sucks”, the dirty secret is this: I love working alone.  More often than not, I hate working with other people, and that dates back to nursery school. Organizing with other people, teaching, getting past a problem I can’t solve on my own, all great. But when it comes down to making something, whether it’s a sewing project or a server configuration, I’m usually much more comfortable in a room by myself.

So while I like the basic idea of shared resources, I can’t drink the Kool-Aid that working alone sucks or that finding my local co-working/hackerspace/makerspace is the best way to get stuff done. What if my local space is full of people I can’t stand? What if their values are way different from mine?  What if I hate the chairs or forgot my French press?

I guess what I’m getting at here is that working with others is great if 1) you like that kind of thing and 2) you fit in with the clique. But in my experience I usually spend my time at hackerspaces talking to people, introducing visitors, giving tours, organizing and planning, cleaning, etc, and I always get way, way more done by myself at home. You know, hell is other people and so forth.

So this is in defense of those of us who just really love the placid, no-social-overhead, free-form-discovery approach to going it alone.

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