OMG, There’s a Person in my Writing Space!

What is the plight of the writer who may or may not have another job, whose partner retires/quits a job/is laid off/works at home/takes extended vacations?

I like working part time as it gives me both time alone and a minimally structured day. I write best when there isn’t anyone else in the house. I’m able to concentrate when I don’t expect interruptions. Another advantage of being home by myself is that I can do chores and other daily activities when I feel like it. If I want to get dressed ten minutes before I leave for work, who is to know? I can read while eating lunch and finish my morning coffee while responding to email. Not only is it easier to write without interruptions, but I accomplish more when left to my own schedule.

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Puppies, too, can be a distraction.

It isn’t that I’m forced to adhere to someone else’s schedule, but harmony seems to dictate that I conform. If you’re eating lunch at the same table, it seems polite to converse, to answer questions, or respond to comments made. This does not, of course, pertain on Sunday mornings when reading The New York Times is my ritual.

Barnes and Nobles Book Blog recently posted Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers, which included this: 8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Once, my husband and I attended the Mountain West Volleyball Tournament in San Diego. A couple, Lobo fans, sat in the bleachers and read during every game when the Lobos weren’t playing and during breaks when they were. We happened to be staying at the same hotel and spied the two of them with piles of books during meals, neither appearing to speak to the other. Although doing all the reading seemed admirable, I did begin to wonder what sort of relationship they had and why they bothered to travel all that way.

Probably people who share an office or are stay at home moms have similar problems. Is having someone around most/all of the time a distraction from your writing? What strategies have you developed to structure your time and writing when someone else is sharing your home or workspace?

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  1. #1 by bkwins on March 28, 2014 - 1:36 pm

    I have very poor or nonexistent strategies. So, I either write when I’m home alone, or wait until late and I’m the only one awake. However, the problem is only with “known” people. I can go to a library or coffee shop, put on my headphones, and work just fine, which I do when I’m having trouble buckling down in my home work space.

  2. #2 by cryptictown on March 30, 2014 - 9:48 am

    As long as I can’t hear what people around me are saying, I’m good.But it sounds like your trouble is more psychological than auditory; you feel guilty for tuning out?

  3. #3 by c2london on March 30, 2014 - 4:56 pm

    Good points. I don’t feel guilty about tuning out people I don’t know, but sometimes I can’t. I don’t know if guilt is the right word for tuning out people I DO know, but it is part of it at least some of the time.

  4. #4 by Marianne Knowles on March 31, 2014 - 7:06 am

    I tend to get the most done when I’m alone in the house, too. But it isn’t necessary. It helps that my husband writes poetry, and needs his own time and space to accomplish that. I’ve learned to recognize the look on his face that says, “Oh, no interruptions please, I am somewhere else right now!” And he scoots when I give him the same look–unless there’s something important to tell me, like it’s time for both of us to shovel more snow before it’s too deep to deal with.

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