I have often tried stealing a few hours to write at a local Panera restaurant. They usually have a cozy alcove tucked away in a corner. Unfortunately, Panera is also a popular place for others who want to chit-chat, which breaks my concentration even when I’m wearing earphones. Plus, I eat my bagel and cream cheese too quickly want another one. Or two. Or an iced brownie. So, places with food are not good “desks” for me.I’ve tried hunkering down in my local library. It’s a great place to spread my stuff, everyone is quiet, and, with my headphones on, I can really focus on writing . It’s perfect… Until the school-aged kids start playing in the grassy area just beyond the windows. And I think I might have leaned to one hip and tooted, but didn’t hear it because I was listening to my music through my headphones… Hmmm, maybe the library isn’t the best “desk” for me.
So, back to home. Technically, I have a desk. It’s in a spare bedroom. Which also serves as the oft-traveled gateway to our garage. And the location one of my kiddos uses as a stop-motion claymation video studio. Which is a fancy way of saying the desk is topped with clay and Legos and action figures and other things I don’t want to clean. So I avoid it and hunker down somewhere else.There is the kitchen counter/pass-through. If I sit on the dining room side and keep my head down, I won’t see the dirty dishes beckoning me. If I sweep my arm across it, I can carve a space for my small computer amid the school papers, receipts, pens, clips, bread loaves, and other random knick-knacks which find a home on its surface. From there, I’m pretty good until our cheap stools begin cutting into the backs of my thighs. And if the tushy ain’t comfy, ain’t no writing getting done.
I guess I could clean off the dining room table. But I would just be moving that mess to the kitchen counter, which would have to be moved back to the table before I can cook. Seems an exercise in futility, so I don’t bother.Finally, I set up on the family room couch. My back is to the bay window, so I’m not distracted by traffic or birds. I have power cords and a place to set my drink/food within easy reach. The kitties can lie next to me if they wish, though (being kitties) they prefer my laptop keyboard. If I get tired, I can just lean back and nap with my mouth open and a crick in my neck. If hubby isn’t there, I can even keep the television off. If hubby is there, then the television is turned to something I’ve seen a hundred times and don’t need to watch, except—ooh!—this is my favorite scene! Okay, I’m putting my headphones back on, but have to pull them off because hubby just laughed at a commercial and I want in on the joke. Okay, back to writ—what was that? Hubby just read something interesting on the internet and wants to share it with me? Siiiiiiiggggghhhhh. [dramatically turns off the ipod and removes the headphones… the subtlety of how much I appreciate his distraction is totally lost on him] Yes, darling, what was that you were saying to me while I was obviously trying to write?
The beautiful thing about writers is our ability to tune out (for the most part) distractions. This includes dust, clutter, noise, To Do lists, and on occasion even husbands and dirty dishes. Unfortunately, children, pets, and television are common concentration busters. The need to focus runs in direct proportion to our ability to be distracted, and it get worse as we approach a deadline. And don’t get me started on the time-suck of social media! Of course, I categorize that under promotion, so it is totally time well spent. *cough*cough*With all the distractions we writers experience, some real and some imagined, it’s a wonder we get anything finished. This is where I compare the writing experience to my wine background. It’s commonly said in wine circles that stressed grapevines produce the best wines. Now, by “stressed,” we really mean grapevines that have to work a little harder to produce their fruit. By contrast, a “stressed” writer isn’t simply working a little harder… we take that word very literally, and there is usually a lot of chocolate and/or coffee and/or alcohol involved in the process. Whether that stress comes from our “desk” situation, an approaching deadline, or something else, I like to think we flourish with a healthy dose of it. And, in the end, we produce our best work!