As a writer, I have learned while there are many shared experiences in the writing game, there are just as many differences with how we work. Some writers plot and outline extensively while others have a lifetime membership in the Seat-Of-The-Pants Club. There are those who start at the beginning of the story, write furiously, almost without pause, until they reach the end and then go back and try to make sense of the experience they just had, while others carefully consider each word before it goes down on the page. Some work in fits and bursts while others plan regular time slots to work on their current project. I could go on and on about the vast variety in the approach different writers take toward working and barely scratch the surface. It is wonderful we can all take our own path to the finished product, which is the goal – the book to be read (and hopefully by many).
One thing I have heard from most writers I know, and even some I don’t know, but happened to get a snippet from their blog, is the frustration we experience when being interrupted while working. The absolute worst times are when you are in the writing zone, fingers flying on the keyboard, or pen scratching on the page for you long-handers out there. You are in the world of your characters. You are living their emotions, seeing the action, reacting to the external forces and settings. You are immersed to the point where you hear the dialogue, experience the smells, and the world of your life has ceased to exist. Until it happens. You are yanked out of the story, sometimes by the scream of a child, the sound of the phone, someone knocking on your door, or sometimes it is simply someone saying your name. Any vestige of concentration has just been shattered into a million pieces and you’ll spend the next half hour once you are able to return to working trying to pick the pieces up and put them together again. The results are sometimes fragmented as you may be missing pieces which were in your grasp only moments before.
Things like that make me want to scream. It takes me so long to get back into the place I left, and sometimes I never get there. And the reality of the situation is that non-writers simply do not understand that their thirty-second interruption just cost you thirty minutes, and maybe some vital bits of your story. Of course, if the bits were extremely vital, then they should resurface, but at what cost to the pace and flow of the story. So for you non-writers out there, if sometimes the writer in your life seems especially irritable or touchy, it’s because the interruption is like someone pouring a bucket of ice water on you during your sleep. It’s jarring, pulls you out of the world which held you in thrall, and it is nearly impossible to return to the world you crave quickly.
The picture I used for this post speaks to me of writers. The figure hovering over a little world, searching while ideas, characters, thoughts flow from her.