Writer, Interrupted

Posted on 23 February 2012

I had a friend in college who once told me that unless she was studying, she didn’t like to be alone. If she did end up by herself, she had to turn to the TV on. She dreaded being alone with her own thoughts.

This conversation both bewildered and horrified me – being alone with my thoughts was usually exactly what I wanted. Right or wrong, it also made me look at my friend in a different light. Here was this bright, hardworking young woman who couldn’t bear to engage in self-reflection. I found the whole thing foreign and a little unsettling.

In general, I’m a quiet person. Sometimes I can go nearly entire day without talking to another person and be perfectly fine with that. But other times, you can’t shut me up. Like last night, when I met with my writing buddies and ended up talking way more than I wrote. I did a good job of making sure they didn’t get much done, either. Interrupting their writing stride to ask if they’ve read a certain book, or to spew out insecurities about my writing project/goal, or to ask about their work? Guilty, guilty, guilty. But we’ve all been there.

I no longer keep in touch with that friend from college who told me she couldn’t stand to be alone with her own thoughts. But maybe I understand her a bit better now — when I’m staring down the blank page and my writing friends are sitting right across from me, it can be a little tempting to tune out my thoughts, as well.

Who does the interrupting in your life?

Photo: CarrieLu

17 responses to Writer, Interrupted

  • I love being alone. I always have, and I always will. It makes being a mother that much more difficult but I’m trying. I really am.

  • Sarah W says:

    My kids and my husband . . . though I think sometimes that my writing is actually interrupting their lives.

  • The dog and cats interrupt me far more than necessary.

    *meow* *whine* WTH?

    I love, LOVE my time to myself. But get me in a room with people, and I’m hard to shut up. I fear I’m a bit schizophrenic.

  • amyg says:

    my three year old. the number of things he can ask for in a 30 minute space is mind blowing. (mommy can i have a drink, mommy will you watch me go to the potty, mommy where’s my batman cape, mommy close your laptop, mommy play candy land, mommy why do deer live outside, mommy whose your mommy, mommy turn on the television, mommy dance with me, mommy can i have another drink–i want kool aid this time…)

    i keep thinking i’ll get more accomplished when my kids are older, but the trick is better time management so that i get more done no matter what their age. i keep trying to find books on time management, but always end up with something more fun to read.

    • I obviously don’t have kids, but several mothers have told me they only started really getting stuff done once they had their kids — it made them appreciate and make the use out of the precious free time they had.

  • Lyra says:

    I used to be that girl, always surrounding myself with people. As Amy mentioned though, having kids cured me of that. Last night at dinner we were discussing middle names. My youngest looked at me and after a moment said, “Mommy Mommy Mommy”. No, dear. I actually have a middle name, although if you were to listen in on my house you’d see he was right.

    • I have probably mentioned this before, but when I was about 19 or so I found a paper my mother had written for a college class. She was discussing her different identities as a mother, a wife (or ex-wife or whatever) and an individual. I was too old to have this next thought, but I did: “Oh yeah. She’s more than just my mom, and sometimes she thinks of herself as someone other than my mom, too.” It was a nice little reminder.

      • Teri says:

        I wish I’d started seeing my mother as a real person sooner. By the time I figured it out, she was too sick and I still, to this day, have so many questions left unanswered.

  • Jennifer says:

    Writing sessions are equal part work and support group. And, just so you know, I got 1,500 words written on a new story. So, lots of work was had.

    I love being alone. One of the things I really like doing alone is going to the movies. I had friend who kept insisting on coming with me every time I mentioned I might go see one. I started lying to her because I really liked going alone. Turns out, she had only pretended she wanted to see these films because she felt it was fundamentally wrong to do this activity alone anyway. She felt sorry for me. Which is funny because the whole time I felt sorry for her (look! she can’t go to a movie by herself) and a little annoyed that I had to go to the movies with her.

    • Averil Dean says:

      I feel the same way about movies. I’d much rather see them alone, with a bag of popcorn in my lap and a shifty eye when the movie ends, so I can hop to the screen next door and make it a double-feature.

      • A few weeks ago, some teenage guys working at a supermarket were conducting an informal poll of their customers: “Would you ever go to a movie alone?” Not *have you ever* but *would you* as if it’s so taboo. I told them I would and have. Then I told them I’ve also eaten alone in sit-down restaurants before, which truly blew their minds.

    • First of all: 1,500 words of a new story, and with me jabbering half the time? Wow. I am impressed.

      Your movie story cracked me up. One semester in college, I had an 8am class I couldn’t miss. I always stopped at the dining hall first for breakfast. At that hour in the morning, I never wanted to talk to ANYONE and always sat alone, which usually wasn’t a problem because no one I knew ate that early. Once I did see a friend and had to preemptively go over and inform him I wasn’t sitting with him not because I was blowing him off but because I wanted to be alone. He looked at me like I had two heads.

      But the worst was when a girl I only marginally knew insisted on sitting with me. She was nice and I would have been happy to talk to her another time, but she hinted that she felt bad I was sitting alone. I told her three times I’d actually be happy eating breakfast alone, but she clearly didn’t believe me. So frustrating.

  • Teri says:

    I’m a split personality as well. I either want to be totally alone and quiet, or I’m “out there” jabbering 90-to-nothing. There is no middle ground.

    When I was little, I was so quiet, so contemplative, my mother thought I was going to be a nun. HA! I had 2 brothers and a stepbrother and sister who lived in another house, while I lived alone with my mom — one minute I’d be an only child, and the next part of a family of 7. It was crazy!

    I’m with Averil in that I’d much rather see a movie by myself. When I had a corporate job and traveled every week, it felt perfect for me. I’d meet with clients all day and be “on,” and then I’d go to a fancy restaurant all alone for a company-paid dinner, followed by a hot bath with a good book, alone in a nice hotel. It was heavenly.

  • Lisa Tognola says:

    Sadly, my own computer interrupts me! With notifications of new e-mails, facebook messages, etc. Although it’s tempting, I keep the setting turned off when I write so that I can concentrate. But sometimes I cheat ;)

  • Catherine says:

    I need to be alone too. Couldn’t hope to work without total silence in my house. But interruptions! Gawd! The past ten years of my trying writing life have been constantly interrupted by everything I can think of – driving, shopping, teens, dogs, sickness, cold, renovations, teens, visitors, cold dogs, kittens, car problems, men, exes, driving, teens, kittens…

    I am amazed I have had anything published at all.

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