How many of us write/paint/compose/record under the threat of interruption? How many of us create under the guise of every second being borrowed time?
This is something that I have often struggled with. When I lived in San Francisco and lead writing groups, there was the constant interruption of latecomers to sessions, regardless of what the instructions were on the Meetup page. One of the other leaders had the right idea; he held his sessions in a limited-access shared office space, and if you didn’t show up on time, you didn’t get in. But mine were all in cafes and libraries, which gave a variety of poor planners that opportunity to get an audience.
The arrangement finally caught up with me in San Diego County, and I stopped hosting meetings. If folks wanted a group, they would have to show initiative, and people who interrupt a whole meeting with excuses often don’t possess that kind of initiative.
With non-writers or non-creatives, it can even stretch into the “real” world. To make up for being an artist (something that I’m often encouraged to apologize for or be shamed by), I try my best to over-compensate in terms of being responsible. Both at home and at work, the domestic work comes first, and then, if I have all of my chores done, then I write. It makes me think of that jazz standard “Robert Frost.”
Bobby don’t you worry about the dishes,
And don’t you even think about those pans,
Bobby you know it’s not good that an artist like yourself
Should be walkin’ around this world with dishpan hands.
Of course, a little housework and tasks unrelated to writing are good for me…they give me a chance to breathe. But expectations are different than that. If I ask for time to write, then the others are resentful that I’m not doing everything I used to do. If I try to make writing work around what everyone needs, the writing is either non-existent, the topic is around all the crap expected from me, or the writing session is short enough to boil an egg by.
What is a writer to do?
Again, I go to the classics…William Carlos Williams depended so much upon his prescription pads for poetry, and so we have a Post-It note on plums. (He wrote great short fiction, too, and I like to imagine that was done in a fit of creative luxury when he knew interruption wasn’t going to happen. But when would that be for a doctor who still made house calls?) The discipline can dictate, but the discipline has to be present from all sides, with initiative from all sides, not letting any excuse stop the writer, not even interruption.
I am writing this post on an iPhone, because I have been expecting interruption this entire time. What rare sweetness to linger with a piece, one playing-card-sized screen at a time, and make it. It’s almost like making it to the next level for a gamer.