Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Those Blessed Accursed Friends

by Janis Patterson

I am among the blessed – I have a number of very good friends who are – in the main – proud and supportive of my work. Most of the time.

Except – I don’t think any of them really understands how much pure work and concentration writing a novel and then self-publishing it entails. They will call me just to chat or say ‘let’s go to lunch’ or do whatever – most of which I really enjoy, but there are sometimes you just don’t interrupt the Muse when she’s cooperating. Or when you have a deadline. Or when you are doing the intricate dance of getting a book arranged just so before it’s sent to the formatter. Somehow at those times the thought of something so pleasant is either a snare and a lure that must be avoided, or a plain bloody nuisance. There are those writers who through necessity or natural inclination can turn their writing on and off at will. I am not and never have been one.

At times I have simply resigned from the world – turned off both the landline and my cell, so I can live in blissful solitude. Until one dear person – who does have a history of over-reacting – drove by the house when I hadn’t answered the phone after several calls, saw my car and knew that I’m supposed to be home, so she stopped and pounded on the door to make sure that I was all right. The first time this happened I swallowed my anger and tried to be gracious. All subsequent times I was… well, less than gracious. She hasn’t done that in a long time now.

My late mother was a master at this. She’d call and when I told her I had been working she’d say “I’ll just take a minute of your time…” I could never understand that once you’re interrupted the thought is broken and it makes no difference if the interruption is two minutes or two days. It breaks the flow. Even when I told her to get a spool of sewing thread, pull off a length and then cut it. No matter if you put the cut ends an inch apart or a mile apart, it was still cut. Her response? “Well, why are you so testy about being interrupted if all you’re doing is sewing?” That was the only time in my life I ever simply hung up on her. At that moment it was the more polite of my impulses. (Oh, but how I do wish she could call and interrupt me again, just so I could hear her voice just one more time!)

It’s hard to say no – especially repeated times – when dear friends whine “But I haven’t seen you in so long! We haven’t been able to talk for ages!” after I have explained for the umpteenth time that I have to work, that I have deadlines. These friends (all now retired from their jobs) would never be so pushy about me taking time off from an office job, but since I work at home obviously they think I don’t have a ‘real’ job and can run and play at will. Sigh.

However this unconscious war against my work ethic has taken a new turn. One dear friend of many years was concerned that working so much might just wear my brain out (I love her, but she is something of a ditz) after I had casually mentioned that sometimes the writing was so intense that I had to take a short break with a quick game of solitaire or backgammon – sort of a clear-the-decks reset. I know that’s not advocated in writing circles, but it works for me. So this darling lady thought I needed something besides solitaire and backgammon and – knowing I love jigsaw puzzles – sent me a link to an on-line jigsaw site where they have all kinds of puzzles with all kinds of pictures in sizes from 9 pieces to over 500+ pieces. Nirvana!

What she didn’t realize is that self-control is perhaps my weakest – or perhaps most non-existent – virtue. The siren song of those multi-colored scraps is overwhelming and I find myself playing more than I should. More than anyone should. I’m going to have to pull the URL off my computer (which will really do no good, since I have it memorized) and then go to her house for a little ‘talk’ – hoping I don’t become overly excited in the process.

At least, I will as soon as I finish this newest puzzle. It’s 480 pieces and a glorious picture of the Duomo…


Maris said...

My husband is the worse interruption I have. We live in a small condo and he's retired. (Need I say more?) I love him dearly, but he doesn't understand that simply coming into the room and saying, "I don't want to bother you, but...?" breaks my concentration and I may or may not be able to get back into the story in the same way that I left it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

My husband is also retired and requires quite a bit of my time. But when my sons phone, at some point I say something like: "I better let you go, I know you have a busy work day." It always works.

Morgan Mandel said...

I keep getting sidetracked also, even in the midst of intense editing. Right now I came to yahoo to convert part of my new book to kindle, so I could check it out on there. I made the mistake of checking emails first. Now, I'm going back to what I was supposed to do. lol

Anni Fife said...

Love this, Janis! It's so true...I think that unless you are a writer, it's hard to understand just how much time it takes us to write a novel...and let's not talk about the publicity aspect. My sister has got into the habit of skyping me for lunch. She lives in London, and travels across time zones, but no matter where she is, she skypes me for a chat. I don't have the heart to tell her I'm too busy to chat. I know she misses family and needs to touch base. The only time I refuse, is when the Muse is singing. Anni. xx

Terry Shames said...

Couldn't agree more. I have many, many acquaintances who are puzzled by the fact that I won't go out to lunch. Now every now and then with a friend, but not often (thank goodness my closest friend hates to go out to lunch). I once needed some advice from a fellow-author who I know works non-stop. She said she would be delighted to help out...but, it had to be first thing in the morning, before she started work. How was 7:30 AM? Fine with me.