WRITERS AT WORK – Obstacles to Writing (Part 2)

REMINDER: Voting for the 2010 Hall of Fame Poets ends Friday night at 10:00 CST. Be sure your voice is heard. Also, my thanks to those who are voting their preferences among my own W.O.M poems.

Greetings from WRITERS AT WORK, the ongoing chat between Sandy Asher and David Harrison about the nitty-gritty of being writers. Rules are simple. We select a question that is often posed and take turns (two each) responding to it. We invite others to join in the conversation and will post longer efforts as Guest Authors on future WRITERS AT WORK slots. For example, we already have Veda Boyd Jones on October 12, Amie Brockway on October 19, and Kristi Holl on October 26.

We now have a spot created for WRITERS AT WORK on the America Writes for Kids website. Here’s the link. http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu/ Go to the top bar and you’ll see “Writers at Work.” Beside it you’ll find the site’s blog, which features a growing number of my Featured Guests. How is that for adding extra value to these postings?

Our initial subject was “The Care and Feeding of Ideas. Last week we introduced a nw issue, “Obstacles to Writing.” I went first (9-28-10). Now it’s Sandy’s turn.

October 5, 2010
Topic 2: Obstacles to Writing
Response 2: Sandy

Hey, David –

“A friend” with a story to tell, huh? Okay, I will, but let’s back up a little first. Phone calls and ringing doorbells are obstacles to writing, of course, along with the dog scratching to go out and then scratching again to come back in. But these days I’d put email and the Internet at the top of my list. Because there I am – at the computer, alone at last and with time to write – and the sirens start singing in cyberspace. Passing minutes turn to lost hours with amazing speed.

Next, there’s family. When the children were little, I was a stay-at-home mom and learned to write during nap times and then preschool times and then school times. As the hours expanded, so did my word count – poetry, very short stories and plays, longer stories and plays, and, finally YA novels and full-length plays. That was fine, because I was learning from the kids and the forms as I was growing as a writer. Obstacles can become challenges, which then become learning opportunities.

Then off the kids went, launched into their own lives, and Harvey continued leaving for work in the early a.m. and not returning until dinner, five days a week. Bliss!

Fast forward many years, and here comes the “friend’s story” to which you alluded, David. Harvey became a stay-at-home retiree. We moved to our small, historic townhouse in Lancaster. (People didn’t need as much personal space in the 1800’s. Jane Austen wrote on a tiny table in the parlor with her nieces and nephews running around.) In my office on the third floor, I could hear the microwave beeping on the first floor. If I wandered downstairs for a cup of coffee, still thinking about the writing at hand, I found my concentration shattered by the sight of another human being. Even one deservedly enjoying quite reading time in his beloved recliner.

How to explain to that non-writer that his mere presence was ruining everything? What to do about it, short of ending an otherwise happy marriage? The answer to the first question came with a Lancaster Literary Guild presentation by Francine Prose. She mentioned a grant she’d received that included a year’s office space at the New York Public Library to work on any project she liked, and she said she knew it would have to be a non-fiction project. She didn’t say why, but I understood. I waited until the Q&A and asked her. “Every day at noon,” she said, “a friend with the same grant who worked in a neighboring office poked his head in and asked if I wanted to go to lunch. Since I was working on non-fiction, that was no problem. I knew my notecards would stay on my desk, awaiting my return. But if I’d been working on fiction, I would’ve had to kill him. Non-fiction happens outside of you. To write fiction, you completely enter another world and any intrusion from anyone in your real life instantly destroys it.” I turned to Harvey. He got it.

So what did we do about our problem? We bought a second townhouse! Two doors away. This one’s really tiny, but big enough for Harvey to relax, read, watch TV, beep the microwave, and even do some writing of his own.

And they lived happily ever after.

Your turn, David. Let’s hear about the battles that go on INSIDE, even when the outside obstacles take a break.