Friday, February 15, 2008

Art Interrupted

Other than my own insecurities, my biggest writing pitfall is [excuse me for a moment, the phone is ringing]. I’m back, sorry about that. Now, my biggest writing problem on a day to day basis [I’m sorry, my husband is asking a question]. Okay, now where were we? Oh, yeah, my biggest pitfall. Well, that’s my own fears and worries. Besides that, there is [Yikes! It’s amazing how loud and two little dachshunds can be. All because somebody is walking down the road in front of our house.] Okay, now that my heart is back to a more or less normal rhythm, let’s get back to the topic. My biggest writing roadblock: interruptions!

Okay, I’ll admit that not all the interruptions are external. I frequently feel the need to get a snack, or realize I need to double-check when that movie I want to see is airing. [Oh, darn! It’s on in an hour. I have to hurry! No, wait. This is important. The movie will be on again. Right?] Then there is that overwhelming need to play spider solitaire [No, not now. Don’t touch that!]
The point is, interruptions are a big roadblock to any writer’s work. Unfortunately, we can’t just climb into our fantasy worlds and lock the door behind us. Life happens while we’re creating art. And, while writing is art (don’t let your great aunt Sally tell you otherwise), if a writer wants to sell, it’s also a business. And we have to treat it as one. Even though that can seem impossible at times.

Nora Roberts talks about teaching her kids not to disturb her writing time unless there was fire or blood. Apparently, it’s not possible to train your husband in this fashion. "I just have one question, then I’ll leave you alone." Or the dogs. "Woof, woof." And don’t get me started on that untrainable telephone. "Ring!" I read about a writer who refused to answer his phone while he worked, even if it was his editor of agent. He said that’s what the answering machine was for. I just don’t think I could do that. But maybe I need to learn.

Okay, I don’t have a lot of suggestions for limiting interruptions, but here are a few things I’ve found that seem to work. At least to an extent.

First, set limits on yourself. Use a timer and write for a certain time (ten minutes, twenty, whatever works). Then reward yourself with one or two games of spider solitaire (or whatever you like). Then get back to work!

Second, if you can find a fellow writer or two who’d like to get more done, set up a sprint. Work for twenty minutes, then stop and email or call each other and report your word count. Take a five-ten minute break, then GET BACK TO WORK. My local RWA chapter is doing this type thing on a regular basis, and it’s really helped several of us to get our work done.

Third, try talking to your husband/children/friends/dog/cat (good luck with those last two), and see if you can come to some understanding. And don’t be afraid to close the door to your workspace. You are entitled to your time and space, even if you’re not yet published (how the heck do you expect to get published if you don’t have good work to send out?)

I think the bottom line is to value yourself and your work. You’re worth it!

No excuses!


  1. Ah, spider solitaire . . . the bain of my writer's life.

    And don't forget about hearing "mommie" for the 375th time since 8am or the contractors above and below me hammering and sawing and cussing and singing country music at the top of their lungs out of tune . . . *sigh* Hopefully only a few more weeks to go of that, but then it will always be something else. Calgon, take me away! Oh wait, I can't write in the bathtub -- the pages get soggy.

  2. Great post. I write in the wee hours of the morning. The only problem is that my schedule is like that of a night worker.

    My dh would just sit in my office and watch me work which is no good because I start to talk and no writing happens. :)

  3. I like the set limits on yourself idea. Write for so long, take a break and write again. As a mom, I know too well those interruptions.

  4. I only have luck if I close the door. Too bad there's no lock on it!

    Jody W.

  5. Why does procrastination always happen?