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Writing In The Midst

As I write this, I can hear a Michael Caine suspense movie going on in the kitchen (and the rattle of a potato chip bag — my husband clearly has the munchies) and my son, right behind me, is watching what sounds like an endless sequence of Top Chefs.  At least I assume it is:  it goes on and on.

And I think about Jane Austen, sliding a paper over whatever she was writing when visitors came to call.  And I remember when I first came to live in England — this was just before central heating gradually came into general use — and realized that English women writers either wrote in the middle of a lot of people, by the fire, or off at the perimeter of the room where it was freezing cold.  No wonder Virginia Woolf wrote about the necessity for a woman who is going to write seriously to have a room of her own!

My own writing room used to have a door.  Now it opens off the living room.  It has the enormous advantage of having a matching desk for my husband who normally does a lot of work at home, and so the two of us can work on our solitary projects with a comfortable sense of companionship.  Unfortunately, lately he hasn’t been feeling well, so he goes to bed early.  This has its advantages, of course.  I can work late without feeling that I’m being unfriendly:  he’s fast asleep anyway!  But my son is with us temporarily, so that’s another person on the premises, and I’m very fond of him, so I don’t feel right about exiling him off to a bedroom.  Which I guess explains the Top Chef.

All of which begs the question:  how much solitude is necessary for me to write?  I’d loved my door:  I often wanted to put a sign on it ordering my children to knock only if they had called the Fire Department first or if somebody had a bone protruding from the surface.  (Never did — I’m a coward when it comes down to it!)  But I’ve been into an intensive writing phase — I wrote 25K words last week — and I discover I can make a mental note of Michael Caine or Top Chef and then proceed to ignore them.  Not quite up to Jane Austen’s level, though.

So how much peace and quiet do you have to have to write?  What’s the absolute distraction level, above which you can’t function?  Or does it vary from time to time, depending on circumstances and desperation?

The Top Chef had one cook who was cooking red fish.  Now how come I noticed that?


8 Responses

  1. I live in a three room house with no doors between the rooms. My computer is on the kitchen table. And I have a five year old.

    How do I write? Noise-cancelling headphones and kid who sleeps until nine on the weekends.

  2. You pose an interesting question. What I need sort of depends of what I’m working on. If I’m really into the scene, I can write with my husband watching TV beside me. If I’m struggling, every word is like pulling an elephant through the eye of a needle, I need quiet.

    I spend a large portion of yesterday dismantling a HUGE weight machine (leg press, arm presses, etc). It took me weeks to assemble this when we moved it. Now my husband and I both think it would be a good idea if I moved my office from the back of our bedroom into the third bedroom we have been using as an exercise room and move all the exercise equipment (weight machine, treadmill, recumbent bike) to the back part of our bedroom. So that’s what I doing. When I finish, I’ll have a private office WITH A DOOR!!!

  3. I have an office off our bedroom…with a nice window seat my husband built me so I can cuddle up and read. (Like I have time to do that) I love it. I painted it myself – a rich clay color with a darker clay border and nice bright white trim. I have a chocolate and light blue patterned rug and a French county computer desk. And lots of books stacked everywhere. It’s the best thing I could have done with the former hot tub room (don’t ask – I live in redneckville)

    I have two folding doors that pull shut. Unfortunately, I don’t have good sound blockage so I hear my kids squabbling over the playstation and there is no lock.

    But I have it good. Love my space. Enjoy your new office, Cyndi. And Kari, I have no clue how you do it, girl. But, hey, that new hot water heater must make it easier to slough away the headaches that come with keeping a five year old happy enough to get page counts in 🙂

  4. Wow. What an interesting variety of spots! And words come out of all of them. Kari, thinking of you and your five year old made me remember writing for a deadline (this was back when I was publishing nonfiction and had honest-to-goodness deadlines) with two of my offspring arguing just outside my (open) door. And figuring that as long as there was no physical abuse I could get a few more words in.

    Unfortunately that’s all I remember. But all four have grown to maturity, so obviously nobody killed anybody else. And I met all my deadlines.

    What’s funny now is hearing the kids’ versions of what was going on!

  5. Love this post, Beppie! Great job on the 25K!! We have an office with a door and it does pretty good at blocking out most of the noise. But I tend to write all over the house, although I can’t say why. A bit of ADD maybe? LOL Depends on the scene and the mood I need to create, like Cyndi was saying.

  6. Interesting that you can write all over the house, Melissa, because I really can’t. I can write notes elsewhere — most of my outlining is done at the dining room table (chaperoned by two cats who are hoping, whatever time it is, that feeding cats is the next on the list) or on my bed, while my poor husband sleeps, with the fat cat who sleeps with us watching the door lest the thin cat come in and try to co-opt a piece of bed.

    But serious writing? That’s at my desk, by two windows that have very uninteresting views. And my laptop. (And, usually, a fair bit of noise from the rest of the house.)

  7. That’s very interesting about English women, Beppie. I have to have complete silence with no one in the room talking to me or each other, and I have found that when I am not in the mood to write, I will write to the sound of Evanescence or Moonlight Sonata. That will, in fact, make me type faster! But if I listen to anything else, I can’t write.

    As far as locations, I stay in my bedroom with the door shut. Everyone knows to leave me undisturbed when I have my door shut because I’m involved in my own little world of writing! LOL

    Great post!

  8. Evanescence or the Moonlight Sonata, huh? I know MS, but not E. I sometimes (when the house is silent) find myself turning on the Sirius jazz station just to have noise. I find I pay too much attention to classical music, although when I’m well launched it doesn’t stop me!

    I guess when I learned to write with confusion around me was when I had little children, and although most of the time I did my writing when they were asleep or when my angel mother took them (I still have a fading, curling schedule from one book when Mother was taking them two mornings a week to give me a straight run) there were times when a deadline was looming and it was turn-on-the-TV-and-hope. Probably explains everything that’s screwy with them as adults!

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