When Life Annoys the Writer

If a writer is going to produce results, i.e. finished, readable work, he or she must set aside time and energy for the task. The writer develops strategies to manage time and energy. A writer:

  1. Writes every day
  2. Sets aside a specific time, and treats that time slot as he/she would any other obligation
  3. Avoids distractions during writing time
  4. Adjusts mind to approach work in a calm, confident, optimistic manner.

The key thing is to give one’s work priority over anything that will keep for an extra hour or two. This includes all housework, and all bills that aren’t already past due. This includes requests for volunteer work. This includes suddenly needing to go to Costco for more paper towels. If one’s regular time to write is compromised, one needs to reschedule, to find another slot in the day to make it up. Socializing, exercise, and relaxation are essential to health, but need to be scheduled around writing. It’s not always easy, no one is perfect, but a writer can maximize available time with the single act of giving it priority.

But sometimes, life intervenes in one’s schemes. Illness, paying work, serious life crises of oneself, family, or close friends, and natural disasters all lay waste to our writing time. And sometimes, life just gets annoying. Sometimes:

  1. Telemarketers, having long since decided to ignore the NO CALL list, ring our land line up to 15 times a day. I screen all calls, but the ringing ricochets around my brain. It is astounding how often the phone will ring the moment I have sat down, picked up my pencil or laptop, and adjusted my mind, and formed half an idea.
  2. A friend or family member will call with a perfectly reasonable, legitimate request (not idle chit-chat) and I will have to go do something for them, feeling guilty for feeling annoyed, because I know they would interrupt their stuff to take care of me on occasion.
  3. My husband will call, wondering if he left a) his briefcase in the family room, b) wallet on the dresser, or c) guitar in the hallway. Yes, yes, and yes.
  4. Stuff breaks. Cars break. Electrical stuff breaks. Plumbing leaks. Cable systems break. Everything is broken. No one wants to help me fix this stuff on my schedule. Things even pretend to break, as a plot to do in my head. This week, my dishwasher pretended to break. Turned out there was a loose spoon that had fallen out of the basket. Once put back, everything worked again. A happy result, but not until about half an hour had been wasted.
  5. People come to the door with packages, religious material, and requests for money. If it’s a package, I have to see what it is. If it’s one of the other two, I have to hide until they go away. This takes time.
  6. It’s tax time, or house re-fi time, or family-member-buys-a-new-car time. Car dealer calls to welcome us to the name of car family.

All of these are normal things in life, and most of the time I’m not bothered by them, but during the last couple weeks, they have piled up on me. An unusual number of things have broken, or pretended to break, since the first of the year. The phone calls have been out of control. For the most part, these annoyances can be traced to the problem of abundance. Having a bunch of stuff, like cable TV and a house. Living with people who also have stuff. Having friends. I could get rid of the land-line phone (thinking about it), get rid of time-consuming luxuries like a house (but love my garden), cable TV (no, no, no!!!), leave my family, reject my friends, and be poor, isolated, and lonely.

Sound like a plan?

Living in a garret would pose its own set of challenges.

Living in a garret would pose its own set of challenges. I would have uninterrupted time, but no inspiration, and no fun. It seems that from the chaos, comes the joy.

Photo: Ben Husmann

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