Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Wanna Run Away, Gotta Get Away...

By Robin "Red Hot" Kaye

Do you ever want to run away? I do—and usually on a daily basis when I’m in deadline hell like I am right now.

Yesterday I was holed up in my office with the door closed writing a highly emotional love scene—much more emotion than sex, although there was definitely sex. I was deep in concentration mode. Do you think my friends and family would get the hint? I mean the freakin’ door was closed.

Not only did I have my family to contend with, but my neighbor and her two kids. And that’s only if we’re not counting the dog, the cat, and the fact that my husband chose yesterday to wash the windows. I know, I should be happy my husband decides of his own volition to wash windows. But really, does he have to do it while I’m writing? Then, my neighbor interrupted to ask if we could all have dinner together, I told her to talk to my husband. What did she do? She walked across my office, opened the damn window he was washing and began a three-way conversation.

In the time it took me to write the last two paragraphs, I’ve been interrupted twice—it’s a way of life for me. A kid, a husband, or a neighbor pokes their head in and I’m pulled out of my story so fast, I end up with mental whiplash. They think nothing of it, after all, they just had to ask you a simple question—it only took thirty seconds. In this case it was “What’s for dinner?” That jerked me away from my work and derailed my train of thought—either that or the dang train kept running along the track without me.

Anyone who has ever suffered from whiplash knows it takes a while to get back to what you were doing before the injury. Since I have so much experience with this, I thought I’d tell you how I handle it.

I do my best to get past the mad. I hate being interrupted. If you’re not bleeding from an arterial vein, then you should know to leave me alone when I’m working—especially when I’m on deadline. If you’re too dense, then you get to suffer the consequences—I yell. It’s a great way to vent frustration. If I sit and stew about it, it just takes me longer to get my writing hat back on and get down to business. I’d like to say that yelling keeps the interruptions from reoccurring, but that would be a lie.

I get up and do a few things. After all, the train’s either been derailed or way the heck down the tracks. Since I’ve already been interrupted, I might as well get something cold to drink, or a nice cup of coffee, and visit the rest room, (so I don’t have to do it later, thus pulling myself out of my writing again). On the way, tell everyone I see that I’m working, and would really appreciate them respecting my “don’t knock, don’t tell” policy.

I ask my husband to take care of dinner. He’s not the best cook in the world, but hey, as he always says, he hasn’t killed anyone yet.

I put on music. If everyone is home and I have Harry Potter blaring on the TV on one side of my office and a battle from Call of Duty in the room on the other, I listen to something that will drown both out. If I’m agitated, I try something soothing. Anything to keep that one part of my mind occupied so I can catch my train of thought—hopefully where I left off.

I turn off the email and my Internet. I’m distracted enough by things I can’t control. I don’t need to be distracted by things I do have control over. I just have to remind myself that I lived for a very long time without ever checking my email. I can live for a few hours before I check it again.

I only allow myself to re-read the last paragraph. I don’t know about you, but I love to read—even my own books. I will go back and reread the book instead of writing. I allow myself one paragraph, or if I really have no self-control, I’ll read from the beginning of the scene. That’s it. Read and get back to writing.

My husband just came home from work and interrupted me again. When he asked what I was doing, I read him the above. He laughed at me then told me it was a good thing I didn’t work in an office environment. He deals with the same problem every day and that I’m not so special. I didn’t get any poor baby’s from him.

I rolled my eyes and pulled the fiction-writer card. He shook his head. Nope, he writes code for computer programs—along with managing a department and all the perks and problems that go along with it. Getting pulled out of his work is a nightmare for him too. “So, what do you do to avoid that?” I asked. My dear, sweet, lovable husband told me that he makes sure his office is not conducive to conversation. He’s basically anti-social—at least at work. People really have to need him in order to have the guts to bother him. He went on to tell me that I’m just too social, too available, and well, there’s no reason not to bother me. “But I yell!” I said. He laughed, kissed me, and went off to start dinner. Told you the yelling isn’t a deterrent. At least I’m right about something.

So tell me, what do you do when you get interrupted from writing…or whatever it is that you’re usually doing? How do you get back into your work?


krisgils33 said...

it happens to me all the time, too, at work. i will usually just keep my eyes on my computer pretending to work and giving them one word responses until they get the hint and go away. my other favorite is when someone comes in to chat with me and then someone else comes in and needs to talk to my first visitor and they end up having a lengthy discussion on something that has nothing to do with me...in my office! go away people and have your stupid conversations elsewhere!!!!!

Christie Craig said...

Hi Robin,

I think any mom/wife who works at home deals with an extra dose of this. They see the woman as the ring leader of the home, so be it for fun, work, life-altering decisions/questions i.e. What's for dinner? or Do you have mints in your purse?, we are the go-to person. I mean since when did Dad carry around mints, right?

I have one explination that helps...I didn't say it makes it go away, it only helps, but I finally explained to my family and anyone who visits for a long period of time, that writing is like counting. If I lose my place, I have to start over on that thread and because I don't know where my thead is, I have to go back find the thread and that's almost as bad as starting over.

Good luck with that deadline.


Grace Burrowes said...

I try to take the work with me. If it's time to feed the horses, let the dogs in/out/out/in/in/out, I go through those motions while dialogue is playing in my head, opening lines are vying for consideration, and characters are deciding what to wear. But my interruptions are not usually from other people. There's a reason I didn't start writing until Beloved Offspring had sprung off to the next town. And even then, I started writing at the office, after hours.

It's just tough to do the balancing, and a deadline is no help whatsoever. Hang in there!

abbi said...

Hey, Robin,

Yes, I can totally relate to this post. My husband travels ALOT so I have two young boys to manage all the time.

I try to write/edit in 15 minute blocks. Sometimes I get more time. It all depends on who's winning on MarioKart or if someone is hungry.

When my husband's home, I'm an ICU nurse and, well, writing just doesn't work there. But, I do get interrupted at the most inconvenient times.

How can you manage your time when there isn't any time in the schedule to manage?

Great post.

Abbi :-)

Marley Delarose, Author said...

You are so funny, Robin. I can just see this conversation. I have no office I can shut the door on so I retreat to the bayou (when the weather is nice and not too hot which hasn't been lately). So I try to get him to the woods or make him use headphones and park him in front of a western. Otherwise a trip in the car or to the coffee shop 75 miles away is a last resort.

It's hard because I know they feel we're shutting them out. We are, after all, the ones who encourage family interaction. Our professional conundrum.

Good luck with those deadlines.

carlakempert said...

I have a similar problem except I have no office. My computer is stationed at the dining room table, between the living room and the kitchen, with the stairs directly behind me. This means I write in what amounts to Grand Central Station, only on a smaller scale. I'm also the only female in the house, which means I'm the hub of everyone's life.

My answer is, headphones. It's an obvious sign to the world that while Mom's body is here, her mind is somewhere else. I'll pick out the playlist that best inspires the scene I'm working on, and I can stay in the mood and stay focused at the same time.

On the bright side, this drive to stay focused on my story has taught me how to employ the same tactics when I'm at the office. It's sad but there are days I get more writing done on my lunch break than I do in 3 evening hours at home.

Great blog, Robin! Good luck with your deadline!

Diana Cosby said...

LOL Robin,
Oh yeah, so there. I wonder if it's a writer thing, if there's not blood, don't bother me. And don't go for weenie cuts either. LOL I'm like you, I go into deep submersion. I don't answer the phone, e's, nada. Focus in the key, and I sincerely appreciate my neighbors who check up on me to ensure I haven't died. LOL They're AMAZING!
Thanks for making me laugh this am. Yup, totally understand. Have a fabulous, quite day! ^5 *Hugs*

Wendy Roberts said...

You have my sympathies. My kids seem to think if they need to ask me "just one thing" it doesn't count as an interruption. Um. With 4 kids asking "just one thing" every few minutes that's a ton of interruptions LOL!

Adele Dubois said...

My office door stays closed and locked when I'm nose deep in a project. A DO NOT DISTURB, Author At Work, sign hangs on the door knob. This doesn't keep interruptions from happening, but it keeps them to a minimum. I need quiet when I'm working and could never produce pages in a coffee shop or mall bookstore. Too many distractions.

Best of luck with your new project, Robin! Can't wait to read your upcoming release.

Loni Lynne said...

I know what you mean. Now that my hubby is home (still) it is a matter of, "Honey, come take a look at this!", "Babe what's for lunch?", "Are you picking up the kids from school?" (No. Are you?) :)

It's frustrating! I do try to get a couple of solid hours in but it's impossible at times. If I come to a sitaution where I just can't focus at home I pick up my laptop and go to my favorite coffee house for a couple of hours. Even with everything going on around me the chaos is not directed 'at' me so I can lose myself in my story.

I don't know if it will work for others but that works for me most of the time. I try and schedule once a week to do just that. The price of a cup of coffee/tea and a muffin or scone for a couple of hours of solid writing is worth it.

Take care and good luck on the deadline.

Diane Kelly said...

I can so relate! My husband sometimes reads over my shoulder when I'm on my laptop. Just as a watched pot never boils, watched words DO NOT COME! When he does this, I usually type "STOP READING MY SCREEN OR I WILL CUT YOU" and that takes care of the problem. : ) I stay in a hotel occasionally (either by myself or with writer friends) to get away from the distractions and those are always my most productive writing times. Thank goodness for Priceline - you can get really cheap rooms!

Robin Kaye said...

Hi Krisgils~

Good point, I do my best to ignore them too, hoping they'll just go away. Still, it's an interruption. Sigh...

Christie~ What a fabulous image! I think I'll try it and see if it works.

Grace~ Thanks for stopping by. I try to keep working through the interruptions but it's hard to run dialogue when three people are talking to you--it's easier with dogs, cats, and horses!

Abbi~ Hang in there. It's never easy, especially with your job and a traveling husband. 15 minute blocks of writing really do add up. I wrote 330,000 words in a year that way.

Marly- My favorite coffee shop is 90 miles away. I think I'm gonna make the trip tomorrow. I always write so well there and no one bothers me unless I'm roaming around. It's like a writing nirvana!

Carla- I feel your pain. I wrote the 330,000 words with Barney and Teletubbies in the background. It can be dune, just not easily.

Hi Diana~
Focus is the key. I just bought a book on it. I'm hoping that when I have time to read it, It will help.

Wendy- I have three kids, I'm there with you! I've begun to tell the kids to tell my answer to their siblings so that at least they don't interrupt me with the same questions.

Adele- I love the coffee shops, I think it's the constant hum of conversation. It keeps the other side of my brain busy so the creative part can take over.

Loni~ I used to home school my ballerina and then we'd drive an hour and a half to her dance school (it's the best pre-professional ballet school in the country). While Twinkle Toes danced, I wrote three and a half books in the 3 or 4 hours I had at the Carlisle Crossing Starbucks. I thank all my baristas in my acknowledgements in all my books.

Robin Kaye said...

Diane~ I'm so looking forward to a time I can just take off by myself. I wrote 10,000 words in two days before Nationals in San Francisco. It was delightful!

chapmansmythe said...

robin. sigh. i feel your pain. Ive tried many many strategies. One is, if i give up and start cleaning or doing an errand for someone, i listen to the wip on text aloud. at least it keeps my head in the game, even if the hands are occupied.
(rr smythe)

Robin Kaye said...

Hi Ronna~

That's a great idea! I listen to my books because it's the only way I can find the mistakes I usually miss due to dyslexia. I never thought to listen when I wasn't editing! Thanks for the tip!

Sharon Buchbinder said...

Great post Robin. Closing my door doesn't work. The dog scratches, the doorbell rings, DH wants to work on his computer (we share an office). So, I set up a laptop in my basement bedroom. For emergency gettaway. I haven't *had* to use it--yet. But knowing it's there keeps me sane. And, my DH has learned my body language (hunched shoulders, back to door, no eye contact) might indicate a good time to run errands. LOL!

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Robin! Are you sure you're not talking about my life? With four kids and full time writing as a freelance/ghostwriter, interruptions appear to be a way of life. It can be so frustrating.

One of the best things when I get mad is to turn that energy into my fiction and I pour that temper into word production. I wrote 3,000 words in about and an hour and fifteen minutes this morning because of that!


Diane Garner said...

Hi Robin,
What if you hung one of those clocks like you see in small store windows on your office door handle? You could move the hands to a specific time and attach the warning: Next scheduled interruption break. Any interruption (unless related to potentially fatal situations) before this time will result in the loss of dessert.

Gail Fuller said...

I run away with my laptop to a room where no one else is breathing and close the door. It works most of the time. Good luck. :)

Robin Kaye said...

Sharon~ I used to have my office upstairs away from everything. I was disrupted a whole lot less frequently because in order to interrupt me, the kids would have to stray to far from the kitchen. I wish I could move back up there!

Wow, Dale! 3000 words in an hour and a half? I think my best day was a little under 4,000 words. I'm impressed and really jealous! I wish getting mad worked the same for me. If it did, I'd be as prolific as Nora!

Diane~ What a great idea. I'm going to try it. But instead of dessert, I'm going to take away TV/X-box time. That puts the fear of God into them.

Hi Gail! How are you, sweetie? I wish that worked for me. In five more years my youngest will be starting college. I'm so looking forward to that.

aarbaugh said...

Great blog! Apparently all our families are related. So, how do I deal with it all? Several ways. I started taking my laptop to work. If I get there early enough, I write for 30mins before my work day. Several days a week, I write during lunch in a quiet corner at the university.

At home, it's another matter. My son is a college sophomore and tells me more about his classes than when he was in high school! I'm writing this with ear buds and music playing while he's watching tv. I still have some work to do on my studio. Once I get that finished, I'll buy a comfy chair. Maybe I'll be able to close the door and write in there.

Robin Kaye said...

aarbaugh- The secret to a successful writing studio is to be away from the main traffic areas of the house. Believe me. My office is right outside the kitchen and it's a nightmare.

Angi Morgan said...

“But I yell!” I said. He laughed, kissed me, and went off to start dinner. Told you the yelling isn’t a deterrent. At least I’m right about something.

I have a husband just like that, but they interrupt him anyway and he gets angry and then complains when he's home--to me... by interrupting...me!

Even the dog interrupts me. Beautiful, brilliant words are lost forever because the dog wants to play ball. LOL