For Writers: How To NOT Cope With Your Family While WritingI’m sure there are several writers in the world, whether professional or amateur, that wish they had the magic “OFF” switch to use on their family and friends when they write. I would love to be able to make a post entitlted: “Tips for the Writer’s Family – Coping with the Author” but honestly, I think it’d be pointless. As a writer myself, I don’t think I’d see it accurately from the other side.
When I’m at home, it’s entirely possible that I go hours undisturbed while playing video games or aimlessly browsing the internet or reading a book, whatever… But I can promise you, as soon as I sit down to write, I can’t go ten minutes without being interrupted for something silly. And let me tell you, when in my little writer world I handle these interruptions badly.
When I’m trying to find the one perfect word out of millions and someone bursts in to distract me, I get undeniably catty and impatient. Because quiet honestly, I don’t care about your petty little problems when I face the practically insurmountable task of finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. And yet, when all the frustration and writing is finally put aside, I end up feeling bad about that curse I slung in your face or the shoe I would’ve thrown if it was in the room.
Therefore, I’ve decided to NOT give a list of tips for the family on how to cope with an unstable, moody writer (even though it’s the families I feel for.) Instead, and which seems much more appropriate to me, I’m going to give you writer’s tips on how to NOT deal with the family when they interrupt you.
That’s right. How to NOT deal with them. Why not “how to deal” you might ask? Because I have no earthly idea how to handle an annoying individual who waits until you sit down to work on your story to come in and irritate the living hell out of you.
DO NOT LOCK THE DOOR TO YOUR OFFICE.
Trust me. They will only knock. And they will continue to knock. Your only hope is to leave that room perfectly accessible, however painful that might be. The repetitive banging and the pitiful pleading of “Please let me in, it’ll only take a second!” will be thrice as annoying as someone popping in and asking you a pointless but brief question. People see locked doors as challenges. If you leave the way open, they may not feel the temptation.
PREPARE DINNER BEFORE SITTING DOWN TO WRITE.
For the love of God, please do this. Of course, make the appropriate meal for the appropriate time – this applies to breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, supper, snack time…
I have no children, keep in mind. So this applies to boyfriends, husbands, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents, annoying neighbors, strange friends, WHOEVER!
Because I promise, the minute you sit down to write… that’s when they’ll get hungry. That is when they’ll want to run to the fast food joint on the corner. Or that’s the one time they’ll want to spend quality time cooking together.
But if you prepare the food ahead of time, it cuts out one more excuse – of course, they’ll only find others, but we can learn and adjust. In time we’ll know how to head those off before they can reach us as well!
MINGLE BEFORE YOU WRITE
Be sure to schedule your writing days appropriately. There should be specific time slots for your writing (Hah! Do as I say, not as I do.) Schedule a “family slot” right before that. Maybe after the “prepare meal” slot.
The point with this one is to give them time to work out their interest in you. Once they’re sick of you, you can write in peace. By no means is this me telling you to be as annoying as possible so they don’t even WANT to talk to you. Although…
WAKE UP REALLY EARLY OR STAY UP WAY LATE.
Because your most valuable writing will be done while everyone else is sleeping. You will be the absolute most productive when the house is blissfully silent and those little voices in your head can finally come out and be heard.
Honestly! Who needs sleep anyway? You’ll be close enough to sleeping when you’re inevitably hit by the zombie-like stupor that will leave you staring at the screen with wide open, glossy, unseeing eyes. And by then you’ll have written thousands and THOUSANDS of the best words ever!
DO NOT THROW THINGS!
Especially not at people. Let me explain why…
You will only hurt them and it’s very likely you’ll break something you didn’t really want to break. The idea here is to contain your anger. My recommendation is to buy a box full of those little stress balls. Or better yet, just fill up one of your desk drawers and when someone pops their head in — well, first give them the benefit of the doubt. They may have something important to discuss…
Maybe the house is on fire. Maybe the baby fell down the well. Maybe Sparky is stuck in the pantry cabinet….But if not, pull one of those stress balls out and let’er fly (in place of that heavy pewter mug on your desk.)
And… let’s just end it there. Five seems to be a good number to end these silly little lists on. Keep in mind that it’s your family’s mission to stand in your way when you decide to become a writer. When you stand up and make that declaration: “I will be an author!” Your family, whether they heard the declaration or not, will stand to their feet with a look of utmost confusion and think aloud, “I must become the resistance.” They may not know why at that moment. but that won’t stop them. They will carry out their new-found duty with admirable dedication, (admirable if it wasn’t you they were pissing off and if it was a different task altogether, actually…)
The real message behind this post is to remember that everyone is going to get in your way at some point. They may do it on purpose because they actually get a kick out of irritating you OR they may not know they’re doing it at all. Just remember: they don’t understand how difficult it is to immerse yourself in a pretend world of your own creation. They don’t know how hard it is to remember a dozen different reasons for the motivations of a dozen different characters, or how hard it is to feel the emotions of half a dozen different characters all at once, or how hard it is to make one single character feel real enough that readers actually empathize with him/her. Or how much of a disruption their small little question/request is in that writerly-thought-pattern.
Your family and friends see you playing on a computer. Or making up stories. They don’t see it as work. If they do, it will be much easier for you to set up “home work hours” during which they will allow you to write uninterrupted. Now, even though I’ve made a joke of this topic… There is one thing that I think is very important for all writers and that is this: remember your family and friends.
It’s easy to become lost in a world created exactly as you want it, to get carried away by the rush of action, or to drown in an tsunami of emotion. Hours can zip by in a matter of moments when you’re enthralled by your story. But you have to be careful not to hurt those around you by spending more time with the make-believe than with the flesh-and-blood. It’s healthy to take long breaks from your writing. It’s healthy to have those time slots set aside for family and friends, not just for you – but for them as well.