Wednesday, 27 November 2013

No Time To Write - I Keep Getting Interrupted

Sculpture by Philip Jackson, Image Copyright Janet Cameron

'It's not my fault I don't have time to write,' said a fellow-writer. 'I'm too available. My sister phoned at 8.30 this morning to say she was in trouble. Her entire life is the pits. I wished she'd left it till this evening, as I'd promised myself an uninterrupted morning at my computer. But I listen. What else can I do?'

Does this sound familiar? It's the downside of being a freelance writer. You may feel bad about being unavailable, but that person probably has a sister, husband or friend who is in a 'proper job' and they wouldn't dream of turning up at their places of work with their problems. You, however, are flexible, and in most people's minds, flexible means not urgent - maybe not even very important. You may be on a high, fully aware that if you don’t commit your creativity to a permanent medium this minute your synaptic connections will go AWOL. Others won’t understand this.

Another colleague agrees. 'Those immortal words,' she says. 'Can you take in this parcel for the lady next door?' It doesn't seem a lot to ask, except that because she's always at home, her house has become a virtual sub-depot for several busy carrier services. 

It's easy to sympathise. Writers are sensitive people and maybe tend to dwell on details and hold small grudges. We fight this unpleasant propensity to analyse everything and brood on petty acts of revenge, but it's not easy.

Poised in the midst of a complex jumble of ideas, you're so high on creative adenaline that you're not even on this earthly plane. Till the doorbell rings – again.  Your neighbour wants to show you her purchase of a pair of leather, high fashion boots to die for.

Some freelance writers are unable to work to a set routine in any case, so while progressing through a story or novel, it’s not possible to predict when your creativity will be at its most intense.  ‘Don’t come round Tuesday afternoon after three, as I’ll be having an amazing flash of inspiration’ is not an option. 

If only people would phone first so the answerphone could deal with it.

'It can be even more difficult when I’m researching in another town', says a travel writer. 'I try not to let on as someone always wants to come with me for a fun day out.'

Just think about it.  We writers don't expect to come with you next time you go to your office?  Or is there some other agenda at work here?  Isn’t writing a real job?  Hmmm!  This certainly seems to be the implication and yet, we continue trying to find time to write whether we are professionals, beginners or complete novices.  We are all passionate about what we do even though other people don’t get it.

The solution requires not analysis and gentle explanation but a much thicker skin:

You have to be pro-active. Don't say, 'I'm writing.' You need to speak in a language understood by non-writers. Instead say, 'I'm working. I have a deadline to meet.'  The deadline part might be a tiny fib, but God will forgive you. If that doesn't work first time, do 'broken record' and just keep repeating those words: 'I'm working. I have a deadline.'  If you don't already have one, it might be worth splashing out on a speaker system to identify and deter unwanted callers like carriers or workmen who want to asphalt your drive or fix the tiles on your roof.


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