If you’ve been on PBW for a hot minute, you’re aware of my favorite saying. We don’t write in a bubble. We write, in fact, in a loud, noisy, messy world full of other people. Other people who may or may not be respectful of your need for writing time.
I’m at a time in my life where I am blessed. I have finally gotten a room of my own, not in reference to Virginia Wolf but in a literal sense. I have an office in the upstairs of our house, and it is all mine. No one’s allowed in unless expressly invited, including the pets.
As you might imagine, this is a recent blessing. Our previous house had no extra room for me to call my own, unless I wanted an office in our unfinished attic. I actually tried that for a time, until I realized that the weather outside was amplified up there. If it was warm the attic was freaking sweltering, if it was cold my pens froze. At least one bird got in there.
So my ‘office’ was in the living room. For most of my adult life, my office has been in my living room. In fact, a lot of time, my office consists of my writing bag, and wherever I happen to be at the time.
I’ve spent a lot of time writing while surrounded by other people, is what I’m saying. Even now that I have my own office, I spend a good amount of time writing at the day job, in coffee shops, in doctor’s waiting rooms. I have, I feel, mastered the art of writing around other people.
When Writing in a Public Place
I hope I don’t have to tell you that if you’re writing somewhere like a diner or a coffee shop there is a certain standard of behavior. Please try not to go during peak hours and take up a table for hours on end. Remember that restaurant wait staff get paid less than minimum wage, because it is assumed that they will make up the money in tips. Please don’t hurt their bottom line. Order something, don’t take up space if the place is full, and leave a nice tip.
Now that the obvious is out of the way, here’s what I do to make the most out of writing in public mo matter where I am.
As with almost everything in life, good planning will lead to a better experience. I try to have my bag with me at all times, so that if an opportunity to work on the current wip presents itself, I can do it.
I also make a point of never going anywhere without my tablet, and head phones. I sometimes find myself on public transportation, and would like to not waste that time. But other people on the bus, who apparently don’t understand basic courtesy, feel the need to chat. I don’t understand this, but there you have it. Headphones alleviate this dramatically. The music will help drown out background noise, and it deters most people from talking to you. I find that instrumental works best for this, and my default is Lindsay Stirling.
Finally, consider your location and the projects you need to get done. I’ve found that I can rough draft almost anywhere, but I really do need a table for any further drafts. So if all of my projects are in second or third draft stage, my long bus ride might be better spent reading or planning my next advertising blast.
When Writing At Home
Hopefully, the bulk of your writing will be done at home. The same rules don’t apply here. For instance, I don’t have to tip my darling husband for making supper.
The first thing you want to keep in mind is respecting the needs of the people you live with. My monsters have to come first, of course. So if I’m doing something with them, that’s all I’m doing. If you have roommates, and you know they have friends over every week on the same night, maybe that shouldn’t be a big writing night for you.
Timing is important, to a point. It might very be that at this point in your life you don’t have time when you’re going to have your living room to yourself. (I don’t advise writing in a bedroom if you can avoid it. I’ve found that I’m just too inclined to take a nap. Or, I find I’m not able to relax at night because my desk is guilting me.) So consider the ebb and flow of your family. Evenings, for us, are a little crazy. Everyone’s coming home, getting homework done, making dinner, taking care of the fur babies. When we’re all done with that, it’s family time. So I know that I’m not going to get any writing done. The mornings, though, are another story. I can write in the living room while supervising the monsters while they get ready for the day. On my days off, I write while the monsters do their cyber school stuff along side me. If they don’t have class, I can usually depend on them to watch Creepy Pasta videos for awhile, and I can pop in my headphones and write on the couch with them.
Finally, though, remember to pick your battles. Everything is a balancing act when you’re part of a family, and it’s difficult for anyone on the outside to tell you what’s right or wrong. While you don’t want to ignore your mate, and of course your kids needs come first, your needs should be in there, too. If your mate’s complaining that you never spend time with them, and you honestly can’t remember the last time you guys watched a movie together, maybe listen. If your mates complaining that you spend too much time writing when you just worked/took care of family matters all day and they’re not really up for providing you with an alternative to your writing, maybe you need to have a talk with that person. Just saying.
Writing around other people can be done, it just takes some forethought. But trust me, it’s a skill worth learning