When the Going Gets Tough

I’ve decided, over the past three weeks, that it’s difficult to write when guests are in your house. I suppose all of you, my fellow writers, will read that opening statement and recognize it for exactly what it is: quite possibly the most colossal understatement of … well, ever. It’s even more difficult to write when your houseguests don’t understand how the writing process works. Or when, perhaps, they have little or no respect for creativity and personal space.

I can get how this could happen. Writing is a tricky thing. To the untrained eye — which, I would guess, is about 95% of the population — the writing “process” can look like a whole lot of nothing. Sometimes, staring into space happens. Sometimes, I might click a key here or a key there on my trusty laptop. Heck, there are moments of pure abandon when all the planets align and I manage to click several keys in a row. In the correct order, even. We’re talking writing paradise, here. It’s heady stuff. But, for every moment of clickety-clackety bliss, there are hundreds of heavy sighs and thousands of seconds spent staring at that certain spot on the wall, wondering why it looks like a cat eating a fish. Sometimes, if I am going “old school”, I write with a pen and paper, which, of course, involves quite a lot of pen clicking, tapping on the table, and, if I’m desperate, even chewing on the plastic cap. It’s a nasty habit, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The point is, it looks like I’m goofing off, but I’m not. Even when I’m sitting there, staring off into space, my brain is working. I might not be aware of it, but characters are being born in there; they are figuring out who they are, where they’re from, and what they want. Worlds are creating themselves. Dialogue is being spoken. Truths are being told.

But, it is impossible to meet new characters, learn truths, or find new worlds when real people crowd into my solitude and personal space. A couple of days ago, I had a wonderful new story idea. Not a whole plot  … just a little snippet of something. But the character was pretty cute. She was someone I wanted to get to know. I thought a plot might emerge with a bit of teasing. Unfortunately, my hubby was working from home, so he had camped out in my office. I had nowhere to go, except for the kitchen table with my laptop. And so, I set up my little space … with my flash-drive and my music and some iced tea. Ready to rock and roll. Until one of my guests sat down at the table to read to me — from a cookbook. I soldiered on for a bit, but, after five or six times of typing food-related information into my set-in-space story notes, I gave up on the whole endeavor. It was almost time for lunch, anyhow, and we were meeting friends.

my bookshelvesThat same evening, hubby treated me to a movie. One of the previews was for a movie about the complexities of humanity and relationships and how we work our way into and out of the lives around us. And I leaned over to whisper at my husband, “Why can’t I write something like that?” I was feeling discouraged and still a little dismayed by the whole cookbook thing from earlier that day. My husband told me the reason I couldn’t write anything like what we had just seen on the screen was that I didn’t have enough human interaction. He said I needed to get out more and talk to more people.

I thought about this for a bit. And then, it hit me …

We write about life — our lives, the lives around us, what we want life to be, what we know life will never be. And yet, writing is one of those things that needs to be done in solitude. In particular, what I had needed earlier that very day was less human interaction — not more.  It’s probably not an epiphany, but it felt like one in that moment. In that moment, it felt as if I had opened up a special box, with my name engraved on the top in fancy gold letters, and discovered, nestled there amid the folds of soft, lush velvet, the secrets to everything in my universe. No, really. I could have sworn I heard an angelic chorus singing “Aaaaaaaaaah,” in the back of my mind.

But then, the moment passed. The angelic chorus faded. And I vowed to go to the coffee shop next time my guests came for an extended stay. That way, I could have human interaction without actually interacting. When the going gets tough … the writer heads to Starbuck’s. Or maybe Panera Bread.

 

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4 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough

  1. quite possibly the most colossal understatement of … well, ever. I was thinking that before you wrote it so had a laugh. A non writer doesn’t “get” a writer. Whatever I am doing my writing is always boiling away, sometimes on the back burner. I think writing itself is a form of human interaction. One of the most read books (Harry Potter) was written in a cafe. Libraries are good too. They also often have free wifi or at least they do in Aussieland. “I have to go to the library” is a great escape sometimes for me. 🙂

    • I tried to reply last night, but WordPress ate my comment. I hope it was yummy, at least. o.o

      I’m glad I gave you a chuckle. 😀 I agree wholeheartedly that non-writers just don’t “get” it. Even when they try. I know several folks who try really hard to understand, but, when I start talking about my characters as if they are real people … I can see the doubts (about my sanity) in their eyes. That’s OK, though. It’s only hurtful when people don’t even try to “get” it, or when they are dismissive of the whole thing. That’s the case with my guests, unfortunately.

      I’ve never thought about writing, itself, being a form of human interaction, but I find I agree with this statement, too. Words can be such a beautiful thing, if used effectively. I often find “effective” difficult to achieve, but it’s great to give it an effort — ha, ha. 🙂

      Oh, yes! Libraries are wonderful places for getting some work done. I haven’t tried that in quite a while, so it looks like I’ll have a new place to retreat to when my going gets tough, writing-wise. Thanks for that suggestion. And thanks, too (as always) for reading and for your lovely comment.

  2. How timely. Yesterday I headed to a local coffee shop to put pen to paper – yes, not finger to keyboard. It was one of the last days of the summer school holiday (most start back today – Tuesday) and I think all the kids in the world were in the coffee shop. Within ten minutes I had put the folder with my best seller (in my dreams anyway) into my bag, finished my drink and stem ginger biscuits (so trip not totally a waste of time) and headed back to the car to write while I waited for my partner to finish shopping.

    Remind me on to avoid coffee shops next summer holidays. 😦

    • Oh my gosh! I hate to hear that we’ve recently had similarly frustrating writing experiences. I think it’s the worst feeling in the world to be excited about an idea and really, really wanting to Work on it … only to be stymied by the people around you. I’m glad you were able to retreat to your car and still get work done, at least. You did a much better job of hanging in there than I did, as I gave up and mentally pouted for the rest of the day — ha, ha!

      I hope your best seller is coming along swimmingly! (And ginger biscuits sound very yummy.) Thanks, as always, for reading, for your support, and for your wonderful comments. 🙂

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