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Absolute quiet. No music. No television in the background. No squirrels dancing up the tree outside my window, their feet a scurrying, distracting tapping against the brusque winter air. None of it. That is when I am happiest. No distractions.
Because I’m the type of writer who is easily distracted. I turn my phone upside down on the desk, so the glow of Instagram notifications doesn’t catch my eye. My wonderful boyfriend instinctively grabs his headphones when he watches YouTube in our bedroom/my office. The door needs to be firmly shut, as does my brother’s across the hall, and then, and only then, can I work.
Unfortunately, living in a three story house with four other people, a dog and a cat, not to speak of the grandparents, friends and neighbors who often pop in for a visit, silence is as rare as it is valuable.
Let me give you an example.
In addition to being a distracted writer, I am also a oozing writing. (Hehe, I did pick the grossest word on purpose.) I mean that my books and notes and papers and pens all seem to ooze from my own desk to the kitchen table to the dining room table, onward and upward, until I’ve taken over all the available space in the state. (In New Jersey, that ain’t much.)
In this case, I commandeered our start up company’s 12 x 3 foot white board and propped it up against the dining room table, then proceeded to outline the massive edits that needed to be done for my current WIP. I’m talking, edge-to-edge, color coded and right smack dab in the center of the entrance way, as you walk through the foyer. My mother loved it, as you can well imagine.
So I hunkered down, ready to set to work on editing the first few scenes in the story, my delightful obsessively-tracking-a-murderer board before me, and my brother walks down the stairs.
My brother doesn’t walk. And since our stairs are 115 years old, the dusting of a feather sends the whole house groaning in ghostly despair. Add the elephant-like glumping of my younger brother to ancient woodwork, and it sounds like an aged ship heaving against a hurricane at sea. He glumps down. Then he glumps up.
Then my grandparents arrive – in what no one would call sneaking in. Given the age of the house, there are very few doors, and the kitchen is a half-hallway from the dining room, where I’ve bundled myself against a frigid winter wind, banging against the front of the house. The Grandparents and my mother settle down into the kitchen for an interminable game of Scrabble. Brother glumps back down the stairs, this time holding an ancient computer monitor, which adds a solid fifteen pounds to his gait.
For a blissful moment, all is silent. And then, as if the harpies of Hades have decided to torment the frustrated writer just a little bit longer, there is a scurry of nails. And another, until a full on squirrel orgy/disco/gladiator match is in swing in the rafters above my head. Their claws tick in uneven rhythm, occasionally accompanied by a hiss – the squirrel equivalent, until all parties dart off to the other side of the rafter. Then back again.
Brother glumps up the stairs.
Grandparents decide to leave. Though they saw each other just the day before, and will likely see each other the day after, they and my mother chat for what feels like long enough to melt the entire arctic, standing in the foyer and utterly distracting. Finally, finally, they take off, and I am left to my peace, as mom helps them out to the car, leaving the large wooden door open.
And, just because cats can tell, my adorable, lovely, sweetness of a rescue kitty, plants his ass at the large glass door and goes to town with his vocal chords, screaming and squealing repeatedly, because we refuse to let him go outside in twenty degree weather. (Anytime he gets out he hides under the porch for three days anyway…)
So, I give up. I pull out my noise resistant headphones and open Pandora, finding a nice jazz station that represents the vibe of the story I’m supposed to be working on. It’s not quite silence, but it’s certainly a relief.
I must defend myself – I’m not a spoiled brat. I recognize how lucky I am to have a place and acceptance of my writerly quirks in my parents’ home, and also I did plant my ass right in the middle of a busy house. But I did find the whole situation a little amusing, after all was said and done, of course.
In the end, the jazz was nice, and I can see why some writers must listen to soundtracks or musical instruments. I might do so again in the future. For now, though, I learned my lesson. Pictures of the white board on my iPad, and a closed door to my bedroom, and everyone is happy. Because once you stop the music, you start the writing. At least, until the next squirrel orgy.