… Aka The Duality of Writers’ Personalities
Alex is fairly patient with me (especially with us both working at home during Covid-19).
I give Alex a lot of credit for his patience. Having been single most of our lives, we each have our unique foibles. He puts up with my compulsions, whirlwind of activities, projects scattered hither and yon about both the house and yard. Where his patience fails is being home for seven months (and counting!), working ten steps away from this writer.
Writers are soloists. We don’t (I don’t) generally like to be around other people except on our terms. And sometimes on Tuesdays. It’s not that we only write when the muse strikes—it’s ridiculous waiting on her to show up. She is on her own schedule and trust me, she doesn’t care one iota about what I want. We write all the time, even when those words aren’t magically appearing on paper or on the screen. We write in our heads, in our beds, and sometimes still using lead.
I had to throw a rhyme in there to see if you’re paying attention. Yes? Okay, I’ll continue.
Quiet on the set, please!
Writers need solitude. Serenity. Or noise on our terms. Sometimes the background of a murder mystery I’ve already seen is white noise, blocking out those ever-enticing birds, “Come outside, RoseMary, come outside!”
I can ignore the birdsong about 90% of the time. What is harder to ignore is my husband.
We should have, in the early days of cohabitating, instituted the rule a friend has—no talking unless you are in the same room. Of course, that would encourage Mr. Interrupter to open my office door to talk to me more than he already does.
I tried explaining that because we writers live in imaginary worlds chock-full of characters and plots and settings, each time we are jolted out of writing, it is like watching your first ever episode of Fringe (remember that great SciFi show?). You get up to grab snacks and come back to find yourself in an alternate reality where the characters look the same, but hey, endearing John Noble aka Walter is a beast in this world versus our earth.
Yep, it’s like that. We shriek, what the heck happened to my universe? Oh, there’s a reality outside my room? Who needs that?
But wait, working at home is worse for others.
Compound this by writers who not only have spouses at home, but children. Or writers with roommates who talk incessantly. And writers with parents requiring care.
It’s a lot to deal with on top of coping with the crazy chaos caused by Covid-19.
See what I did there? A little alliteration—again, just making sure you’re awake.
I used to put a sign on the office door, “I’m not writing a mystery, but interrupt me one more time and I’ll convert this women’s novel to a murder.” But murder most foul isn’t too much fun and games these days, is it?
What do you do to keep your focus? To find uninterrupted time? Did you discover a cozy corner of your house where you can hide? Neato.
The flip side of us writers.
Yet, we writers crave friendship, companionship, new experiences, fodder for our stories. I wrote an entire mystery based on the original Islay’s Ice Cream building in Oakland. Anything can inspire us and anyone can make an appearance in a story—heroine, antagonist, or murdered irritant. Watch out. We don’t always know where you’ll end up.
Without new physical activities/input, we get stagnant. In my case, my ideal world involves travel—of any degree—at least every six weeks. It can be a drive to mid-state to visit a cousin, a jaunt to Montana with little sister to visit big sister, or sigh, a flight, train, bus, and taxi to reach Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales. But new is what I crave.
Sometimes just going to South Park settles me down for another six weeks.
We even, (I mean me) don’t mind being around other people. That’s saying something.
But these are unusual times for working from home.
When the world stops like it is now, like it never has in my life—not even with 9/11 which saw me flying with a cousin to Montana one month after—we need support from those who like to read what we write, we need communication with other writers (thank you WFWA), and we need books!
We need to read whatever grabs our attention and reels us in like a trout on a line. Lately, I’ve been addicted to Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books. I cheated with John Sandford, but he was too dark to satisfy my needs. Cole/Pike are a duo you want to have a drink with, although they mostly do beer and I mostly do wine these days. Still, hanging out with them, on the deck, gazebo lights sparkling (day or night, why not?), birds doing their singing routines, I get rapt by and wrapped into the story and disappear and think, Oh thank you, Lord, for good books!
Then I get back to editing mine.
And try, in the quiet of my room, door firmly closed, to ignore Alex walking back and forth—the man can outpace an expectant father in any waiting room (do father’s still wait in rooms for babies to come? That’s outta my wheelhouse.)—because I know he has twelve things he wants to say.
Ha. Don’t try. That mystery is open in Scrivener just waiting for me to write-in a new victim.
Are you the writer? Or are you living with a writer? Patience, we need patience on both sides to survive being in our homes, to being segregated from those we love or at least love spending time with.
For you outside of our imaginations, keep in mind that if Alex, Mr. I-gotta-tell-you-this-right-now-or-the-world-will-end, can put up with me hibernating for hours, you too can bear with your writer.
Be supportive and be kind to those of us trying to get the words out and into a cohesive form. Someday, our hard work will pay off and you’ll get the benefit of saying, “I knew her when (she made me shut up every day)…”
Read: Are you observing or complaining these days? (I do a bit of both)
I’m lucky, I’m retired.
So, so lucky, GP! Must be wonderful!
I’m not a writer but still work from home. Mine likes to park his butt in my office and talk incessantly while I am trying to work. Then gets upset when I I don’t respond to a question.
You’ll have to try a version of my sign. I don’t understand why they don’t understand that they are interrupting our concentration!
My wife is a freelance travel writer who works from home and I’m retired. We’ve both been home for about five years now. We’re pretty used to it and it goes pretty smoothly but that has a lot to do with her having a third floor office, a part of the house where I rarely venture. She does miss heading off on press trips once a quarter or so, and I miss having her head out from time to time as well.
I’ll bet your wife is even more stir crazy than I am! I love that she has a 3rd floor (I’m going to pretend it is an aerie) where she can hide and write. I think it’s healthy when married folks admit to enjoying a bit of alone time. 🙂
I think it would be difficult to live with a writer. Oh wait, I did live with you for a bit and it turned out okay 🙂 Or I should say you lived with me. We didn’t kill each other 🙂 Ok – so maybe not so bad after all.
Brahaha. I so enjoyed being your Grown Up Nanny! We’re more lucky that John didn’t kill us.
It’s perhaps payback that when I’m ready for dinner conversation and he’s completely silent – I think maybe I should have let him interrupt me a few hours ago.
I think, ahem, maybe they need to curb their excitement at telling us stuff until we can hear them.