The Interrupted Writer
The more I write, the more I realise how perfect the creative process is. We - the artists - think it should look and work a certain way, such as during quiet time, or while being alone, or while everyone is out so that we don’t get disturbed, or perhaps, one day, when we’re retired…. But in actual fact, it’s the hum drum of every day life that keeps the creative wheel turning. The interruptions in particular.
I’m signed up to receive an awesome newsletter called The Painters Keys, by Robert and Sara Genn. This week, they sent out a letter mentioning the importance of the interruptions that we as artists always seem to suffer. But in the letter, Robert said, “If you’re having interruptions, you need them.”
I couldn’t agree more. Often I’m interrupted while writing, and as a mother of two I’m interrupted more often than I’d like, and I usually return to it with a fresh idea in mind. More than once, I was able to say thank you to the creative muses who orchestrate these interruptions because if it wasn’t for the them, I would have continued writing many more pages before realising I was going down the wrong track.
I’ve come to realise also that it’s not the interruptions that are the problem, but my unrealistic expectations that there shouldn’t be any. I don’t live in a vacuum. I’m not a hermit up in a mountain by myself. Interruptions are simply the signs of life around me - a life that is also the wellspring of much of my creativity. Seen from this perspective, the interruptions are less annoying. It also helps to remember that the only way the muses of creativity can get my attention is by interrupting what I’m working on.
Having said this, writers have, over the ages, gone to extreme measures to ensure they are left uninterrupted so that they can get their words on the page.
Ian Flemming holed himself up in a not very nice hotel for two weeks at a time to write his James Bond novels. It being a less than stellar hotel, there was nothing much to disturb him and he was able to write away. Henry David Thoreau escaped to the woods, to live in isolation, and there he wrote ‘Walden”, and Henry Miller escaped to Big Sur.
So while solitude and having the opportunity to concentrate on the task at hand is important, I find it pays not to get too upset by the interruptions that come with daily life, and certainly not to use them as excuses not to write. Both Julia Cameron and J.K.Rowling wrote their signature books amidst the comings and goings of life, snatching time here and there to write just a little bit more. And Neil Gaiman wrote “Coraline” - or at least some of it - at a rate of 50 words a night, before going to bed.
Which just goes to show that great writing can happen even when we’re being interrupted. It’s just a question of attitude.