Mom Writer, Interrupted

Monday, July 16, 2007
One of the leading challenges for mom writers revolves around interruptions. Whether a mom has one child, two, three, or more, every writing moment inside her home can feel like a stolen moment in time. I’m talking mainly about any of the unexpected interruptions: the kids’ arguments over an object, food, or a game. But I’m also referring to the moments when someone enters the sacred writing space to say “I’m going to go get a snack. Do you want something, Mom?”

Mom sighs and shakes her head, “What was I going to type next?”

Only writers can empathize with the need for privacy to focus on that hard-to-write article or the hard-to-capture character. Somehow, perhaps through Murphy’s Law, our best writing moments are those that get interrupted. Maybe it has nothing to do with this at all and more with feeling tossed around between everyone’s needs. Multi-tasking is one thing, but the need to focus at certain times is completely different.

Novelist Judith Krantz once revealed that she places a sign on her door that says: “DO NOT COME IN. DO NOT KNOCK. DO NOT SAY HELLO. DO NOT SAY ‘I’M LEAVING.’ DO NOT SAY ANYTHING UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE. . . . Also, telephone’s off!”

I’ve felt like this before--don’t interrupt me except in cases of natural disaster! Many writers come up with their own devices and signs--pleas for respect. But for the littlest kids, this can create a trying situation. Plus, in our world today, using the TV is considered taboo to help. Well, I disagree.

Certain channels do provide quality TV that can expose children of varying ages to new subjects. For example, when my children were younger, but too old for Sesame Street and similar shows, I’d give them paper, pencils, and let them watch a Mark Kistler drawing program on PBS. They’d learn how to draw using their imaginations and Kistler’s skill sets. They’d end up with a work of art to display. They’d also end up with a huge smile on their faces.

As my kids grew older, they watched Bill Nye the Science Guy working out some special science experiments; they learned about animals in the jungles and zoos; they watched the Kratt Brothers and their leaping lemur explore different creatures, and various other educational programs. Another quality TV show for older preteen children is Myth Busters on Discovery Channel, or (for the dog lovers) the Dog Whisperer on the same channel.

In our society, a stigma is still attached to letting our children watch television while we accomplish tasks, as if we’re rotting their brains. But TV actually provides educational material and fascinating tidbits of information. We need only look for it.

Having said this, I should say I don’t let my kids watch TV all day long or even half a day. But when I know I’m working on a writing project that’s difficult, and one that requires focus, I plan ahead. There’s nothing wrong with using the TV to entertain our kids during tough moments. There’s nothing wrong with stealing moments in time that we need, especially when it’s only for an hour or two in a day. We deserve quality time to write, and our kids deserve quality time, too.

Of course, we can’t always plan ahead. So in the last few months I’ve given myself a huge challenge: I allow my kids into my writing space from time to time to practice “blocking out all their noises and voices.” It helps me extend beyond my comfort zone. I can’t do it successfully all the time, but I envy people who can.

Can you block out everyone? Or do you prefer a quiet space for certain writing projects? Friday is our open Blog day. Speak Out! Tell us how you steal time. We’d love to know. The more we share, the more easily we can all cope. Sharing also provides writers with inspiration.


Gina Conroy said...

I can so relate to this! In fact I started a blog and community because of it!

And with over 350 members, I know I'm not alone!

KA said...

Sometimes I use the interruptions as an excuse, as in, "My kids only napped for half an hour today so I didn't get any writing done." Was I writing during that half hour? Of course not! I was on Facebook and reading blogs!

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