Sharpen Your Knives

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We had some snow here in NJ. My area got hit with about a foot. Maybe eight inches. I didn’t check and I didn’t bring out my ruler. I will tell you however much it was the shoveling wore me out. I tried to focus on the blessings like I’m healthy enough to shovel and I live in a house as opposed to a cardboard box. It’s the first snow storm in March since 1993.ย 

All that snow means the school closes. Two teens home. And the Coffee King certainly can’t drive to work and we share an office at home. Let’s not forget the noodgy dog. So, trying to get writing done with many distractions isn’t easy.

I’ve blogged about this before, but after about fifteen interruptions and it wasn’t even lunch time I had to take matters into my hands. I had to carve out some time to write.

First, I texted my good friend and writer buddy K.M Fawcett. (Her books are awesome. Check her out.) K.M. and I go to a local Starbucks at least twice a week for uninterrupted writing time. My text said something like, “I CAN’T GET ANY WRITING DONE.” It’s hard to get your mojo going every time someone sidetracks you. She gave me some good advice. Set a timer. Tell the characters in your house no interruptions while the timer is on.

Then I remembered! My red hat!!! ย It had been years since I needed that hat. When the Noodges were little and I would try to write they’d interrupt me constantly. My desk was out in the open so I couldn’t shut a door. I instituted the red hat. When I wore the hat they weren’t allowed to talk to me. Unless blood or vomit was involved. I promised to always give them warning before I wore the hat and they could ask me as many questions as they wanted before the hat went on which was very important to Noodge 1. He can’t wait to have his questions answered. He’s still like that at almost seventeen. (I can’t believe that same little boy is almost 17!)

Yesterday, the hat made a revival. I took a picture of myself wearing the hat, and sent it to my family scattered around the house with instructions. I’d wear the hat with a timer going for 20 minutes. Please don’t interrupt me unless blood is involved. (They’re big enough to throw up in a toilet now.) It works.

Finding time to write isn’t easy. We all have lives that work around our writing. Unless you’re Stephen King whose writing can work around his life. Our families don’t always understand that we’re actually working even if all we’re doing is staring at the computer, but our hands aren’t moving. Every time our train of thought gets broken we have to start over and hope to capture the fizzle we’re trying so hard to get on the page. Writing isn’t like doing accounting or sewing.

I don’t blame them for not understanding. In fact, I’m a culprit in the interruptions. I often stop what I’m doing, no matter what it is, to help my kids or walk the dog or talk to CK. The hat creates a nice visual. (I just got interrupted while writing this. I’m not wearing the hat and Noodge 1 can’t find his sweatpants. See?)

The timer is good because they know how long you won’t be available. And anything can wait twenty minutes, can’t it?

Knives are sharpened. The hat is on now. The timer is next. It’s another snow day and plenty of writing to do.

Any questions?



20 thoughts on “Sharpen Your Knives

  1. That’s a great idea! I could sell them at the retreat in September. I’ll have to think of something catchy to put on it. The hat I use now is from our trip to The Great Wolf Lodge when the kids were little.

  2. Lucky for me Stacey as you know I don’t have kid interruptions. I do need to hide my phone or remember to silence her. Ding, ding ding…. Please make it stop. I’m addicted to my smartphone, I need a time out….

  3. Well, the hat won’t work with the phone unless you have a phone with super powers. I think your meditation practice is a good idea for your time out. It’s important to shut down and quiet the distractions. That’s when we hear the Universe speaking to us. I need to practice more of that too.

  4. I remember the red hat. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure my guys would have noticed me wearing one–they probably would have ignored it anyway (especially Hubby and Younger Son–they’re allergic to waiting for anything.

    Distractions, Sigh. I have long diagnosed myself with DBDS–Distracted By Dust Syndrome. Translation: No longer seems to be able to write when in a blank-wall room alone. (And among the reasons I have been doing more sewing lately–I can watch tennis matches and stitch at the same time. Yup. We all have our addictions.)

    Go grab that knife and carve some more, girl. Sounds like you’ll get the house back before you know it, too.

  5. Yesterday my son came into the office looking for me, he saw the hat and stopped in his tracks. But, because I’m a sucker and he’s sick, I took off the hat and asked if he needed something. The Coffee King, who shares the office with me, says to Noodge 1, “Thanks for paving the way for me to break the hat rule.” They found it very funny.

    And because in a very short time, my oldest is going to college I do stop and become present for him and his sister who isn’t far behind him. I want them to know their mom was always there for them, I have plenty of time to work when they’re gone. I can’t get these years back. And if I could go back, I would and spend even more time with them and less time worrying about my clean house, my words on the page, or whatever. We borrow our children. They don’t belong to us. Well, only for a short while.

    Thank you for always stopping by. I always enjoy seeing you at the blog.

    1. There is a hat for that! It’s called leaving the house and writing at Starbucks. When I write out of the house I get way more done than when I’m at home. Laundry becomes very exciting while I’m writing. I can’t figure it out.

  6. I remember that snowstorm in ’93 very clearly — and even fondly — and I thought of it last week when the new storm front moved in, specifically because it is so uncommon to get that kind of severe weather in March. By my recollection, my sister and I spent that Saturday holed up in the apartment as the storm raged outside, watching Harrison Ford guest star on an episode of Young Indiana Jones; as it turns out, Ford’s sequence had Indy caught in the middle of a snowstorm, and I recall thinking how weird it was that there was also a blizzard happening right out the window. Funny the things you remember…

    You already know, Stacey, that I’m all about writers carving out time for themselves to the exclusivity of all other things. As we’ve discussed, part of the trouble with being a work-from-home writer is that everyone assumes you can just drop what you’re doing at a moment’s notice to run an errand, or stop and chat, or come out for coffee — like you have all the time in the world. No one makes such an assumption when you report to an office from nine to five, but when you’re working from home, boundaries aren’t respected in quite the same way. And anything we can do to signal to others that writing time is inviolate time (i.e, set and enforce those boundaries) is good for you and good for them. Because I know that when I’m disrupted during writing time, it’s akin to being suddenly woken from a dream state: I am momentarily disoriented and unmistakably irritated. Like falling asleep, it can take a while to “get in the zone,” and then a while still to come out of it; it’s not something I can just start and stop like iTunes.

    1. Exactly! I don’t think non-writers understand, nor should they, how difficult it can be to recreate the momentum of creativity. The slightest distraction can take a scene about to become something filled with emotion and conflict and turn it into a brain fart moment. We lose the sizzle of the moment and it’s nearly impossible to recreate the same sizzle. You can produce something else, maybe even better, but never the same.

      The enforcing the boundaries can be very difficult and the washing machine is a master at persuasion. That’s why I prefer to take my writing outside of the house. I can write twice as many words in half the time. The laundry doesn’t get done, but who needs clean clothes?

  7. I use a timer for all kinds of things (it’s part of getting older – I forget stuff), but the hat is brilliant, Stacey! What a great idea for giving the cue to the noodges. I don’t know how people write with kids anyway, but it seems you’ve got it working! Hopefully, the snow is gone now and you are making big strides in welcoming spring!

    1. If you ever need to borrow the hat idea, feel free! It’s always been a challenge to work my writing schedule around my kids’ schedule. As they got older it became easier, but not perfect. That’s life. My first goal is always to be available to them when they need me. They are mine for such a short time I want to suck up every possible moment. When they fly the coop I’ll have all the time I’ll need and I can retire that hat. Well, I’ll still have the Coffee King, so maybe not. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, a novelist, and I never went for it. Then I had my kids and they were 3 1/2 and 2 and I realized I’d better get serious about this writing thing before my whole life passed me by and my kids were grown. I had read a story about Mary Higgins Clark. When she started writing she had five kids, she worked full-time and had lost her husband. She woke every morning at 5 to write until the kids had to get up for school. I thought, “if she could do it with five kids and no husband, I could do it with two kids and a husband.” I woke up every morning at 5 and wrote. It took me three years to write that first book.

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