My husband is not a writer. He’s a tile contractor, and he doesn’t mind if people interrupt him while he works. Dogs, chatty homeowners, other workmen… whatever. He likes to put his head down and keep working, but it doesn’t take the intense concentration that writing does.
Electricians are here right now, installing much-needed lighting in our living room and master bedroom. I can’t concentrate. I can’t think for more than about twenty seconds and then one of them shouts up to the other guy in the attic, and I’m out of the land of my imagination and back into my office, grumbling. I should just give up for the day.
But aren’t there always interruptions? What about the phone? The neighbor’s leaf blower? The dog barking? The activists who ring the doorbell? I finally got a “no soliciting” sign for the doorbell, so that will help. But the point is, that when we project ourselves into the land of our fiction, step into the shoes of our point-of-view character and let his or her world envelop us, that world is easily shattered with an intrusive noise.
Like my husband, opening my office door, poking his head in and saying: “I’m not disturbing you. I just need to get my phone.”
Now that he’s semi-retired, we have had to make some agreements about this. Susan Wiggs tried to enlighten him, by comparing a writer’s concentration to a golfer’s, when a $10,000 putt was on the line. He may have a better idea about it now. And I have drawn the line: when my office door is closed, I am not to be disturbed. I do not answer the phone. I do not answer the door. I do not make him a sandwich, and he better already have his cell phone with him.
Harsh, I know. But necessary. If I’m going to get any work done at all, it is imperative that I protect my solitude.
The rest of the ambient noise I’ve learned to live with. It slides in and out of my consciousness as it would my character’s. There is ambient noise in his life, too. But the electricians drilling holes in the ceiling is a bit much.
We’re contemplating a major remodel to the kitchen in a couple of years.
I’ll probably rent an office for those months.
I was walking the dog through the park not long ago and saw a woman with her cell phone and her laptop doing business from a picnic table. Now that’s the way to office. If I thought I could write with such distractions, I would.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll go water the garden.