One of the hardest things about writing—and don’t get me wrong, there are many; this is just one of them—is finding a quiet place to write where you won’t be disturbed. I swear that every time I settle down and start to work, someone moseys up and enters “my special place.” It’s almost as though the sight of me sitting there, engrossed in my work, sends a direct signal to those nearby that says, “Hey, she looks like she could use a friend. Let’s have a chat!”
I realize I’m being unfair. Most people who disrupt my writing time don’t intend to. And they certainly aren’t aware of the fact that the particular seat I’ve chosen, located at the far end of the left-hand-side table in the library, with the soft light spilling over my papers, is “my special place.” Or the corner of the collapsed dining room table, pushed up against the inside wall of the dining room, as though this position affords me some sort of private corner. It doesn’t. There are two other seats at this table and, more often than not, someone chooses to sit in one of them to keep me company.
I don’t even own this table I sit at—not at the library, and not at the house—but still, I’ve claimed it. I should probably put up a sign that says something along the lines of, “In Session, Do Not Disturb. Very Important. No…Really, I Mean It.” Unfortunately, I think this would probably draw more attention than not, and again, it isn’t very fair.
The problem is that writing requires a great deal of focus. Even if someone decides to sit by me and be quiet, promising not to disturb me, there is still an element of distraction that doesn’t exist when I am sitting alone. Their presence there, as they go about their business, is a distraction. It draws my senses, causing me to inadvertently wonder what they are doing, and when they will stop. It’s probably my own fault, my disposition towards introversion, my tendency to be easily distracted, and my difficulty at zoning out when there is any element of sound or movement present. At this stage in the game, writing requires solitude. The only company allowed is my own, and sometimes even that gets in the way. But there isn’t anything I can do about the presence of my own thoughts, so I’m stuck with them.
For me, choosing the right place to write has been such an important factor that I often find myself spending a great deal of time thinking about it and planning it out; sometimes even searching for it. Which place provides the least amount of people; the right balance of shade and sunlight; the right temperature (on the warm side for me; I hate being cold); the least amount of noise? All of it matters. Once I find it—”my special place”—I cling to it with a vengeance.
Which is why I feel such frustration when it is taken from me. I know that I have the power to minimize my frustration. I have a choice. Since writing on the moon isn’t an option (I can’t afford to fly there, and I don’t have the right equipment to survive), and avoiding everyone, all the time, will be no less difficult, I have to find a way to be among others and still get my work done. If I’m not actually expected to engage in conversation, then ear plugs are an option, but headphones are better. I put on some soothing music, turn up the volume enough to drown out the background noise (the television, a video playing on an iPad, someone talking on the phone), and I get to work. I’m usually able to find my way to the zone in this fashion, and the frustration melts away.
If someone does want to have a conversation, then I’ll do just that. It would be good for me to engage with other humans every once in a while. If time gets on and I find myself feeling antsy to return to work, I’ll simply tell them politely that I have a lot of work to do, but I’d love to continue the conversation once I’m done.
Finding ways to make any place “my special place” is far more effective than wasting time finding the perfect place to avoid people.