maldad via photopin (license)

According to Greg Levin, interruptions are one of the best ways to torment writers.  I could not agree more strongly.

Yesterday my spouse came home unexpectedly to deal with a tradesperson who had been called in to deal with a cracked window in our kitchen. It was in the middle of my writing time.  Some very simple transactions resulted in eight separate interruptions. I was in creative agony.

Why are interruptions a problem? 

As Jeff Goins says:

The hardest part of writing isn’t the sitting down part. It’s not the part where you open up your laptop. It’s where you finally push out your first few sentences and build momentum that’ll fuel the rest of your work (emphasis mine).

Every single time I am interrupted, I have to start again, pushing out the first few sentences so that I can build momentum. Whenever something interrupts me, my concentration is broken. I lose time as my mind tries to recover the ‘flow’ state. I also lose time by dealing with whatever it was that distracted me.

Writers like Kristi Holl think that the trick is writing through the interruptions. To me this sounds like madness. Interruptions do not feel good. While some interruptions are inevitable,  I see no reason to “change my mind” (as Holl suggests) about the impact of interruptions on my work.

Asking me to write through the interruptions is like asking me to take a driving test with a shrimp fork stuck in my cheek– I could do it, if I had to, if my life depended on it, but WHY? Isn’t it easier to write the driver’s test without a damn shrimp fork sticking out of your cheek? Is it really to much to ask of the world that no one stick a fork in your face just before you take your driver’s test?

Gratifyingly, the science on the issue seems to favour my position rather than Holl’s.

(DISCLAIMER: This is in no way a criticism of my tolerant, organized, responsible spouse. He is just trying to do what he needs to do to get the kitchen window fixed. Thank you for dealing with the window, Robert. If we left it to me, it would be broken until at least late January. I freely acknowledge that this is one of the many reasons writers are hard to live with).

2 thoughts on “Interruptions (Or: why writers are hard to live with)

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