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'Dilbert' creator on working at home, getting his voice back

  • Story Highlights
  • Scott Adams spoke to CNN about working at home, getting inspiration
  • He recently recovered from rare disease that robbed him of his voice
  • Adams once had his creation "Dilbert" spend a week working from home
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(CNN) -- Dilbert spends much of his life in a cubicle, battling the insanities of working for the pointy-haired boss. His creator, Scott Adams, works at home, although he too once had a corporate job.

Scott Adams says e-mails from "Dilbert" fans saying, "Please mock my boss, he's an idiot," help keep him in tune with the corporate vibe.

Adams recently spoke with about working at home, getting inspiration for "Dilbert" and recovering from spasmodic dysphonia, a rare disease that robbed him of his voice for more than a year.

Q: Can you talk about how long you've been working, how you came to be working at home and doing what you do?

A: In 1989, Dilbert was first published in newspapers, but I kept my job at Pacific Bell for about six years after that. So I guess I was working at home at the same time I was going to work in my office job. Obviously there's not much options when you're a cartoonist -- you pretty much either work at home or rent an office I guess, and working at home just seems easier. And then after I quit my day job I just kept working at home.

Q: Do you ever miss working in an office, being surrounded by people, or is working at home pretty utopian?

A: Home is pretty utopian. Let me describe my setting right now. Actually my home is bifurcated because my home-home is a literally across the street -- I'm looking at it out the window right now. So I have kind of a temporary office while I'm building a home that will have my home office. But I've got my cat here and the television's on while I'm finishing my work, and it's pretty sweet.

Q: What is your work environment? When you sit down to do a cartoon, what's your process?

A: The actual physical surroundings are: I've got a desk that looks like it could come out of any office, and I've got a large-screen computer that I use to do the art ... I draw directly to the monitor. ... So I don't have anything in my office that looks like art whatsoever. I could look like a lawyer or accountant if you walked in here.

I start at 5 usually, 5 in the morning. I just walk across the street in my flip-flops and pet my cat for 10 minutes so she won't bother me for the next few hours. There's kind of a toll you have to pay with a cat; if you don't pet her for 10 minutes she'll bother you for six hours. So pet the cat, get a diet Coke, eat a banana and sit down and start writing my "Dilbert" blog -- that takes usually from 5 till 7 in the morning. Then I do typically two cartoons. I do them in rough form and I'm usually done with those by 10 or 11. Then the rest of the day is whatever I have going on, which is typically contracts and paperwork and licensing and conference calls and taxes and administrative stuff. And sometimes I have time to finish up the cartoons I started in the morning. So I do all the creative stuff I do before noon usually.

Q: And that's five days a week?

A: Yeah, that's five days a week, and then weekend mornings -- but usually the weekends I don't work past 9 a.m.

Q: What keeps you motivated? 5 a.m. seems like an awfully early time to be getting up when you're your own boss.

A: I'm kind of a morning person, so I enjoy getting up that early, so that part doesn't take any effort at all.

Q: Do you ever find your self drifting off? What keeps you motivated?

A: There are always deadlines I have to meet. I don't let myself get too close to the deadlines, so it's not like I'm just sweating bullets or anything if the clock is ticking. I never let myself get in that situation. But I always have more than I can figure out how to do. On any given day I wake up and say, "Gosh, I don't know how I'm going to do all that stuff." But all of it's fun, so everything I do is kind of enjoyable.

Q: So the enjoyment aspect helps keep you motivated?

A: Yeah, I mean I don't like the paperwork part of it, you know the administrative stuff, but you know, that's the price you pay.

Q: Are there pitfalls for you, working from home?

A: The only pitfall is if any household or family emergency comes up, I can't claim I'm somewhere else. If you drive for work and there's a strange odor in the house, no one expects you to come home. But turns out there's lots of things that can come up that can pull you away. I recently got married, so I've got two kids now in the house and stuff comes up. Kid gets sick and I'm right here. It's all good in the sense that I have flexibility, but if I drove two hours to work that wouldn't happen.

Q: What will your new home office be like?

A: It will be an upstairs office that will have all the stuff I need. My perfect office has a view, some window I can look out of, a big ol' desk so I can spread out my stuff, and a television I can watch while I'm finishing up my comics. Which is kind of mindless, you need some kind of distraction on at the same time.

Q: What do you watch?

A: Right now I'm watching "The Daily Show," and I'm big on "Real Time with Bill Maher," and that's usually about all I have time for -- well, unless "Battlestar Galactica" is on -- but it's off for the season.

Q: How do you keep that corporate vibe in the comic when you're working far away from that?

A: You're never that far away, it's a little bit like a memory that can never go away, it's like a traumatic experience, you don't really forget it no matter how hard you try. So I can pretty much put myself in that frame of mind anytime I want. But I still get lots of e-mails from people saying, "Please mock my boss, he's an idiot -- you won't believe what he did today." So I've got that going for me.

I also own a couple restaurants locally, and so just yesterday I was over there in a meeting and at the end of that meeting it was pretty clear that I had my cartoon for the next day, which I'm drawing right now.

Q: Do you ever miss being around people, or do you intermingle with enough people through your other activities?

A: Yeah, every once in a while I get cabin fever. But the reason I have the restaurants is so I have a little outside connection, and I recently got married so I have lots of human contact that way. For me the hardest part is I lost my voice a few years ago, so I'm just learning to speak again in a different kind of fashion, and I need practice to do that. So it's tough to spend half a day without any human contact, because I don't get to practice, but that would be unique to me.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?

A: I'm surprised you didn't ask about eating. The thing I hear the most about is people trying to keep their weight down -- working at home is the hardest thing. Two friends were just talking about this. You don't have time do something -- you don't have time to start a hobby or turn on a television show -- but you always have time to stick something in your mouth. So I find I have to keep pretty much all the food out of my office area, like I can't have it in the office itself, 'cause I'll just eat it till it's gone.

Q: Thank you very much for talking with us.

A: My pleasure. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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