Stop typing for a second, please!

Posted on October 24, 2011 (Subscribe to Blog)

Last week I had some well-earned time off while family visited from England. But usually I'm so busy with website work and writing that I can't find enough time in the day, as my 7-year-old girl will testify.

It's often when I'm in the middle of writing a quote for a job, or knee-deep in programming code, that Lily Beth comes and asks me to play. I can't count the number of times I've held up my hand and said, "Hold on just a second while I finish this." Out of the corner of my eye, I see her sitting down at her own desk in my office and getting her pens and paper out. She usually ends up drawing pictures, but sometimes she writes notes like this one:

Stop typing, please!

I can't help laughing, but at the same time I feel terrible for shushing her in a moment of don't-interrupt-me concentration. This is the trouble with working from home; when she's back from school at 3.15pm, as far as she's concerned it's the end of my work day as well. If only!

When it comes to writing, I don't even bother trying when she (or anyone else) is in the house with me. There's always some kind of distraction, however small. Some authors can apparently block out noise, but I'm one of those cranky types who needs QUIET. I'm fine with a general continuous buzz of noise (like the neighbor's lawn mower) but most other sounds are distracting; I find that the lyrics of songs end up on my page, and SpongeBob SquarePants tends to ruin the atmosphere with his annoying laugh. You've seen The Shining, right? Remember the bit where Jack Nicholson patiently and sarcastically explains the situation to his wife?

Jack Nicholson"Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my CONCENTRATION. You're DISTRACTING me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand? Now, we're going to make a new rule. When you come in here and you hear me typing"–clack-clack-clack–"or whether you DON'T hear me typing, or whatever the #%$@ you hear me doing; when I'm in here, it means that I am WORKING. That means DON'T COME IN. Now, do you think you can handle that? Good. Now why don't you start right now and get the #%$@ out of here? Hm?

Hopefully I'm nothing like the psychotic Jack in the movie. My wife is certainly nothing like the clueless Wendy; she already understands that writing requires solitude, especially after hearing the same kind of complaints from authors like Terry Brooks at the last Dragon*Con in Atlanta. But for certain cranky authors, a spouse can never be quiet enough no matter how much she tiptoes around. And a child doesn't know how to tiptoe. So the cranky author's best bet is to do one of the following:

  1. Wait until he is alone in the house;
  2. Wait until everyone has gone to bed;
  3. Give up writing.

Since I'm a website designer working out of my home office, I'm able to write in the daytime if I choose – either when work is a little slow or just because I feel like writing. I can always do bits and pieces of work when Wife and/or Child are in the house: replying to emails, working on designs, and so on. For those things, noise doesn't matter. But I prefer solitude for complex programming or writing. That's when I'm cranky when disturbed. It's also when time flies by the quickest, and that's why small tasks like going outside to put a letter in the mailbox, making a quick phone call, or emptying the dishwasher don't get done until much, much later (if at all).


My poor wife. How does she put up with me? And my poor little girl! Obviously we do play together, but in her mind there's never enough playtime. She'll probably look back on her childhood and remember only the times I continued to stare at the screen, held up my hand, and said, "Hang on a minute..."

Comment by LOVE ISAPOISON on Monday, October 24, 2011...

That's a pretty fantastic note, though :)

Comment by BRIAN B. on Monday, October 24, 2011...

I hear ya! I've a 6 and 3/4 year old. The sad eyed pout of rejection as she stands, arms down by her sides, with beseeching eyes generally gets me away from the computer.

Comment by MICHELLE on Monday, October 24, 2011...

OH the horror our kids can effortlessly inflict! I'm trying to come up with a new reply other than 'not now' but it keeps falling out of my mouth and then comes the rush of guilt.

I try and wash away the guilt by remembering the reaction I get from him each time I ask him to stop playing 'cause it's time to pack up.. :)

Comment by HELEN on Tuesday, October 25, 2011...

Ah, how true. I still hanker after the time I shall have time to write....and greatly admire those of you who do, especially those of you with children. Write on :-)

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Tuesday, October 25, 2011...

It's so nice to know that I'm not the only parent terrible enough to delay a child's plea for playtime! Thanks for sharing; I feel a tad better about it now. :-)

Comment by RALPH CORDEROY on Tuesday, October 25, 2011...

Clearly Keith, you need to cultivate the Uncle Quentin side of you that little bit more so Lily Beth and SWMBO understand the meaning of a closed study door and the tip of your nose turning white! :-)

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Tuesday, October 25, 2011...

Indeed, Ralph! Although when it comes to tips of noses turning white, I believe you're thinking of Mr. Lenoir in Five Go To Smuggler's Top. Perhaps Uncle Quentin's turned white also, but I distinctly remember the Five making a point to notice this about the "horrid Mr. Lenoir," along with his "tiresome" polite laugh.

The closed study door is spot-on, though! I need to actually close it more often...

Comment by NIGEL ROWE on Tuesday, October 25, 2011...

Tricky. Maybe the answer is to build an office/summer house building in the grounds of your estate. You could shut yourself away inside, and be 'out of bounds' to all and sundry. If necessary, get some guard dogs to secure the entrance whilst you are inside.

Comment by RALPH CORDEROY on Wednesday, October 26, 2011...

You're quite right Keith, Lenoir it was. You'd think that Quentin must have had a warning 'tell' over all those times. Perhaps it was drawing breath. :-)

I'm considering making a poster of Jack and The Shining quote to see if it helps me.

(BTW, an https scheme URL, like my link above, is given an http prefix.)

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Wednesday, October 26, 2011...

Thanks, Ralph - I've fixed the "https" issue on yours and future links.

Comment by WIFEY on Wednesday, October 26, 2011...

I knew there was a reason I was scared to go into the basement. Just as long as he doesn't start coming up the stairs going "Here's Jackie!"

Comment by DARREN ROBINSON on Saturday, October 29, 2011...

All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy. All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy.

Comment by MING on Sunday, October 30, 2011...

Lily is adorable! Love her writing.

Comment by STEPHEN ISABIRYE on Friday, November 4, 2011...

Keith, you better watch out, for you may be becoming like Enid Blyton who had no time for her kids; an aspect that created that bitter memorial, "A Childhood At Green Hedges," by her own daughter, Imogen Smallwood.

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