I spent the morning writing. Not unusual. But unlike most mornings I was on a deadline, trying to get an excerpt from The Novel out the door. And unlike most mornings, I was not in my office or hiding away in my room. See, I’m on vacation right now, staying with extended family.
My immediate family understands (for the most part) that writing is my work and unless the house is on fire or there is blood spurting from a wound, I need to be left alone.
My extended family doesn’t really get this. I imagine they see writing as this thing I just do in my spare time. Another one of my quirky hobbies.
Thus, my frustration when (despite having explained to them before I arrived that I had to get this thing out the door this morning, and despite having tucked myself away in a corner with my headphones on) I was asked again and again what I’d like to do for dinner tonight. Should we go out? There’s a great new restaurant up the way. How did this particular cuisine sound? Or maybe this one instead? Oh, better yet, how about we stay in and make this great dish we made a while back that is really delicious?
I tried not to get annoyed. But…well…it was 8am when this discussion transpired. I was focused on my work, facing this deadline, and hadn’t even had breakfast yet. You want me to make decisions about dinner?
I kindly explained — again — that once I had this work done I would be free to discuss any type of cuisine for any time of the day. Just not right now.
I’ve grown accustomed to having the people around me understand that “I have to go write” is synonymous with “Please give me some space to work”. Those who are closest to me know how important writing is for me.
Those who only see me on occasion need gentle reminding. Reminding that for creatives, being creative isn’t a hobby, it’s who we are. Reminding that creativity requires a certain amount of mental space. Reminding that work looks like many things, and doesn’t require an office or a regular paycheck. Reminding that these five minutes you’ve given me to write this blog will result in hours of uninterrupted conversation, I promise.
Because here’s the thing: if we don’t take our work seriously, no one else is going to, either.
(Even as I type this, one family member is asking if I’m okay, am I sure I’m okay, I look grumpy. “I’m not grumpy,” I answer. “I’m writing.”)
Do you encounter these difficulties, too? How do you protect your creative time? How do you explain your work to those who don’t really get it?