Writer Interrupted

Common Do not disturb sign of a hotel

Image via Wikipedia

When I started writing full time, my home office was the dining room of a house with a fairly open floor plan. A pair of school-aged kids, a toddler, and a husband constantly wandered past my desk on their way to other parts of the house. The room had no doors to close, so conversations and arguments carried from other rooms to intrude upon my thoughts, and I was always “handy” (if not exactly available) to answer the most meaningful questions in life (a.k.a. “Where are my socks?”)

Interruptions are us.

Now my home office has a door. Does that mean interruptions went away? Not on your life. The phone rings, e-mails arrive, text messages magically appear. Fortunately, what I learned in the early years serves me now.

  • Break work into small chunks and focus on one chunk at a time.  My chunks tend to be limited to whatever I can hold in my head at a given time. A chunk might be as small as a headline, or as large as a page. The small chunks mean if I lose my place because of an interruption, I don’t have as much ground to recover.
  • Take control of the interruptions. Turn off your email program when you need to focus. Shut down your IM software. Let people know when you are available, and when you aren’t. This is especially important if you’re waiting for return phone calls, but it’s also helpful for dealing with the people who share your living space. Simply declaring “I will be free to talk to you between x and y,” can make a big difference in when interruptions will occur.
  • If you are working on something requiring your total focus, use a visual signal to let folks know not to disturb you. It can be something as simple as a do not disturb sign. During the early years, I trained my kids not to bother me if I had headphones on. I know another writer who owns a special writing “cap” that she wears to keep family members at bay.

How do you deal with interruptions to your writing? Share your tips in the comments.

3 comments on “Writer Interrupted

  1. My family knows that whenever I have on my tiara, I am inaccessible. At those times, I’ve told them not to treat me any differently than they would the Queen.

    • You have a TIARA?! I am fire-breathing jealous!

      My children used to refer to me as the “Queen of No Fun,” but I never acquired any of the royal trappings. Unless a flyswatter counts as a sceptre.

  2. […] sway. Interruptions happen. You have a choice, you can let them rule your productivity, or you can develop strategies to deal with them and get back on […]

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