Shhh… Writer at Work!

One of the best things about being a writer is getting to work at home, amirite? You know, we can work in our pajamas! No annoying commute! No office politics! Endless chocolate and coffee!

Okay, maybe not so much. Maybe it’s more like I’m working in pajamas because I’m on deadline and haven’t had a chance to touch that massive pile of laundry in my bedroom. And I’m obviously not commuting anywhere because I’m not dressed. And chocolate… well, thank heavens for leftover Halloween candy or I might starve. A Snickers bar is okay for breakfast, right? It’s got peanuts in it and I’m pretty sure those are healthy.

(Full disclaimer: I’m not really in my pajamas. I can’t function unless I shower and get dressed every morning. I am, however, pleading the fifth on the Snickers bar. And the laundry situation.)

That said, it’s true that working at home isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s not just because of that shiny thing called “the internet” that keeps distracting me. Or my laundry piles. Or the dishwasher that needs unloading. (I’m actually quite good at ignoring housework. It’s something of a specialty of mine.)

No, the thing that always derails me is this little distraction called… other people. Don’t get me wrong — I love my family. I love my friends. I love spending time with them.

I just don’t like it when they interrupt my work.

And even though I know they all mean well, it can be hard to get the point across that despite the fact I am home, sitting on my sofa with a laptop looking all relaxed and happy with chocolate in my teeth — I. Am. Working.

I mean, I know for a fact if I happened to be in a ditch operating a jackhammer, my kids wouldn’t come over to ask what was for dinner. Just like I’d never dream of walking into the operating room while my brother was performing surgery to see what we should get Mom for her birthday.

But hey — writer on sofa. Fair game.

Sometimes I dream about renting myself an office somewhere with an assistant to screen all my calls and fetch me stuff. But then, that thoroughly defeats my plan to work at home in my pajamas eating Snickers bars and ignoring the dishes.

Now, I know I’m not the only writer to suffer from other-people-distraction syndrome. At a retreat with some of my agency-mates last year this very topic came up, as well as some clever ways to deal with it — i.e. hanging a curtain in front of the desk to indicate Mom’s off limits (unless there’s blood, then well, go find Dad anyway); a figurine on the computer — if he’s facing out, okay to talk; in, keep it to yourself, unless, well, blood.

I myself haven’t come up with any good tricks — other than to inform my family when I’m working that I’m in my “cone of silence,” which I envision looking like an invisible version of one of these:

dog collar

(Actually, come to think of it, maybe I should put one of those on my head whenever I’m busy. At the very least, my family and friends would think I’d completely and finally lost it and would stay away long enough for me to get something done.)

So, how about you? Do you suffer from other-people-distraction syndrome? How do you deal with it? Tell me in the comments below! Right now, I’ve got to run… I’ve got a whole load of laundry to not do…

Jan Gangsei
  1. Thanks for the great comments (and suggestions!). I sure would love a writing shed… though I guess my backyard is too small (and probably the HOA wouldn’t approve). Oh well, guess it’s just me and my cone… Happy writing everyone! 🙂

  2. I can so relate! I thought everything would get better when my kids were mostly grown (high school and college), but now my dogs have slipped into the demanding kid role. I have a senile Brittany who doesn’t want me to leave her side (which is not a convenient place to write) and a three-year-old Yorkie mix with the energy of a Tasmanian Devil!

  3. This post is hilarious! So true. Too true. Been there, done that. That’s why it’s so funny. 🙂 And . . . I haven’t come up with anything that works either. I have determined that I am very distractable. Or maybe it’s just procrastination . . .

  4. I have no useful suggestions beyond a closed door. That helps.

  5. It’s crazy, but you have to kind of follow the same schedule as if you had an outside job — like before everybody gets up, or after they’ve gone to bed. I might get a cone, too. Thanks for the great post.

  6. Oh my goodness, I can totally relate to this post! Unfortunately, I don’t have any strong solutions. Any distractions I set up for the kids ends up lasting 20 minutes, tops. My husband works at home and I have no idea how he manages to not get frustrated with the noise level and interruptions in our home. I just try to sneak in a little here and there, and I get up in the wee hours if on deadline. I actually wonder what will happen with my process once both young kids are in school all day. I mean, a 6-hour chunk of time to myself (if I choose to ignore laundry, etc.)??? That’s almost daunting 🙂

  7. My husband helpfully converted the woodshed to a writing shed. I have to put on shoes to get there, but my family understands that when I’m there, don’t call me unless there’s blood. Or someone just baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies.