Because I began my writing career as a news reporter, I could probably write in the middle of a traffic jam, but there are distractions that bring me to an exasperating halt. Phones and door bells ringing, neighbors and friends popping in when you least expect them, salesmen (yes, they still do occasionally appear at your doorstep), missionaries leaving pamphlets, and so on.
According to Carl Honore, who wrote In Praise of Slowness, it takes our brains eight minutes to return to our creativity mode whenever we’re distracted. Telephone interruptions require a fifteen minute recovery time. With email, one message delays your creative train of thought for more than a minute, according to Lois J. Peterson in her article, “May I Put You on Hold?”
Peterson says, “High tech interruptions come with built-in controls, if only we would use them.” We have answering machines, caller I.D. and email programs that alert us to messages, if we leave the programs open. Shutting down the Internet while we write is one solution as well as unplugging the phones, especially if you're fortunate to have broadband service.
What if? was always be on my mind if I shut off all forms of communication. What if there’s an accident at the job site, what if one of our adult children needed our help? What if my husband had an accident or broke down on the way home?
We had a large home office which I shared with my husband and our two business. Although background music helped, I was often interrupted by not only the phones but my husband wanting to share something with me. Many husbands don't understand that writing isn’t just a hobby or an excuse to avoid housework. Bestseller status would undoubtedly cure that problem.
My husband reads more than I do, including my books. I’ve talked to other writers whose spouses don’t read their work, and resent the time they spend writing instead of with the family. Countless women writers have said their husbands’ resent their creativity. Writers, artists and entertainers used to only comprise 5% of the population (before self publishing), so that placed us in a special category, of which I cannot think of anything comparable, with the possible exception of rocket science and brain surgery. I’m not advocating that writers be placed on a pedestal, but regardless of how much money we earn, or how little, our talents should be respected by family members.
Few of us have our own private office or cubby hole where our writing time is sacred. I've gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to write something down that was rattling around in my brain, without phones ringing or people barging in. I was tired next morning and probably more than a little cranky, but as every writer knows, if it's not handwritten or typed into the computer, we're going to lose that "brilliant" passage.
Writing isn’t just an occupation that doesn't pay all that well, for me it’s a source of joy and feeling of accomplishment, like nothing else. I’d rather write than attend a party, sell books at a signing, or stay in bed all day to read.
Although most women writers have said, “I need a wife to do the chores so I can write,” the obvious solution is to marry another writer who cooks, cleans and edits. And while we’re at it, make sure he looks like George Clooney.)
Most of my writing problems were solved when my husband retired and we moved to a small mountaintop ranch (pictured above) with only cell phone service and few neighbors. The only distractions are cows mooing in the distance and an occasional deer or antelope passing by my window or an eagle soaring past. It doesn't get much better than that.
~Jean Henry Mead