How do I convey to my loved ones that I need space to do my writing???
by Adria Lang Again
(Bruce Peninsula, Ont. )
Ok: This question deals with working AROUND my family while trying to further develop my plot. Many of my loved ones encourage me in my endeavour and believe I can do this. Some are more practical thinkers and see it as wishful thinking - I'm not sure if they realize how negative they sound, but I've run out of ways to try to convince them.
I feel like I'm at this break-through-or-don't-break-through stage, and I kind of have the opportunity to put time into my story now.
That being said, our family has been through some ups and downs, recent personal transitions, and since I (like many writers) am introverted by nature, it has been tricky for my loved ones to see the difference between what seems like me withdrawing from everything and being depressed, and what it means for me to want/need space and time to do creative work.
I crave my independence. If it weren't for my friends and family it would be nothing for me to be alone with my thoughts in a Rapunzel tower for an undisclosed amount of time just happy as a duck in a puddle. I am not completely antisocial and I know when to come up for air so-to-speak.
My husband doesn't want me to fall into depression.
(But there are times I just NEED to get away from my step kids.)
My mother-in-law tries to nudge me out of the house because she thinks I'm just like her and I need it.
My Mom wants to make sure I'm not stranded and unhappy so she's always asking me out to things.
My sister is a social butterfly and because she is toting along her 3 toddlers she can't be as free as me so she wants to live vicariously through me. I'm sure of it.
So. I've tried the "just say no" approach, but I just feel like I'm making excuses and everyone wonders when this book is coming and why it isn't done yet. (Because I feel guilty saying no, I'm raising my step kids, I'm watching my nephews, I just moved 7 years worth of our hoard (almost) by myself, I'm going grocery shopping with you, I'm planning your wedding, etc. all the while my poor characters are trapped in my head. That's where my book is. In my head. On my desktop. Scribbled on RESTAURANT NAPKINS! AHHHHHHHH!)
I've tried to be portable. I have a little portfolio for on the go, a million notepads and pens in my purse, I took your advice and have a charting app on my phone, and all that's fine. But I get distracted. A lot. You know - overwhelmed when I'm out and about and sometimes, YOU JUST NEED PRIVACY to block it all out.
So my actual question is HOW DO I CONVINCE THEM I AM NOT DEPRESSED AND I JUST NEED TO RETREAT??? Not forever, and not all the time - just to do my work??? I feel like it's now or never do or die time. Is there
a catch phrase, magic word, hand signal to make them get it - and not feel guilty doing so???
Any ideas would be lovely :)
...............-Stubborn But Not Very Assertive in Ontario Answer:
I really do sympathize with your situation. It sounds like you have a lot of obstacles to work around.
On the one hand, people in general have very little idea how writers work and what they actually "do."
Often people think someone is only working when they are seen working. So they think actors are only working when they're on-stage (never mind the hours of rehearsal), teachers are only working when they are interacting with children (never mind the hours they spend evenings and weekends preparing lessons, marking, taking seminars, etc), and writers are only working when they are giving interviews or signing books. Manuscripts, it is widely assumed, pop into existence in the blink of an eye.
Few people understand how much "thinking" can be involved in writing and how a writer's work often looks like inactivity. Moreover, if you tell some people that you are at home writing, they assume, for some bizarre reason, that they are free to phone or drop by because "you're not busy"! (As if they would do this if you were working anywhere else.)
Then you have the added problem that extroverts don't understand that introverts can be quite content when by themselves, and may need smaller doses of social interaction to feel balanced. Extroverts only know how they would feel.
If you are looking after children at the same time as you are trying to write--I can only express my admiration that you can put two thoughts together under such conditions.
Even worse... I recall the Bruce as being a very small community, full of isolated hamlets and cottages. If you were in a city, I could suggest you grab two hours a day by yourself in a coffee shop or branch library while someone else minded the children, but you may be far from such facilities. (Any neighbours or supportive relatives you could enlist?)
If you can find time during the day, with the house (or someone else's house) completely to yourself with no children around--whether that means getting up two hours ahead of everyone else, or staying up two hours later, or enrolling the kids in a summer camp--then grab it. Tell everyone you will not be answering the phone or the door during office hours unless it's a medical emergency or the house is on fire. Follow through on those rules until you train everyone to respect them. (I say two hours here, but four would be better if you can manage it.)
Arrange social time outside office hours so they can see you're not depressed.
Tell everyone not to ask about your book--you will tell them when it's done, when you're ready.
Show them this page, if it will help them understand your concerns.
Remind them that writing is job, even if it is self-employed. And jobs have work hours.
Don't negotiate the rules.