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Q&A for July, 2015

Q from a writer in Ireland: Is it common for spouses or “significant others” to wonder what the hell you’re doing on the computer and why do you spend so long? I swear, I can be doing all sorts of work for everyone else, but when I start in typing a piece up or doing MY work, he hollers, “What are you doing?” It seems like they think, “Oh, she’s just writing!” Really, he’s a great person, but this irks me sometimes!!!

A: Yeah, dealing with family can be a hard one. Do you have “a room of one’s own?” Do you have a door you can close? Do you have the chutzpa to ask him to knock? (I have more than asked — I have insisted, but only after I turned about sixty and had HAD IT.)

What you are asking is not only reasonable, it is a survival need for the
artist. You must have uninterrupted solitude, or you simply cannot do your best work. Kafka wrote, “. . . one can never be alone enough when one writes . . . there can never be enough silence around when one writes . . . even night is not night enough.”

I suggest beginning gently. I have a quote from Rilke, printed nicely over the door on the inside of the little attic room where I write. It may not help a family member, but it does give me courage to work at insisting on uninterrupted solitude:

. . . because I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. — Rilke

Truly I think only one thing is a useful last resort. If you cannot stop another adult in your house from interrupting you when it is not an urgent matter, then cheerfully, not angrily, gather up your work, take it to your car, drive to a “greasy spoon,” order a drink, work there for a couple of hours, leave a good tip and go home cheerfully, not angrily. I almost guarantee if you do that a couple of times the bad behavior will stop.

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