As a woman who is blessed to have met and married every woman’s dream: a partner who Loves To Talk to Her, I have had to resort to some extreme measures to obtain unbroken time to write without interruptions. These measures include but are not limited to: going somewhere else to write (I love my local coffee shop!) and erecting a large easel in front of my office door with “Shhh!” spelled out in glittery hearts on a large project board. Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to attach electrified concertina wire to this sign, so it’s all too easy for said beloved partner to just poke their head around it and interrupt “for just a sec – I promise this really is important!” several times per hour.
In an attempt to clarify what actually is and is not important enough to interrupt me with while I am writing, I drew up the following document. I don’t know if it will help, but I offer it here for you to use as a template should you find yourself encountering similar difficulties communicating boundaries to your well-meaning loved ones. (Note: My husband is a consultant who teaches online business classes to adults, so you may need to edit the “Basic Rule of Thumb” to fit your own situation.)
When It Is OK to Disturb Me While I Am Writing
Basic Rule of Thumb: Do not call my cell phone or pop in to personally speak with me except for matters about which you, yourself, would find it appropriate for someone to interrupt you while you are actively in the process of teaching a class full of live human students.
To assist in clarification and choice-making, Specific Instances of such matters are defined below.
Do not attempt to speak with me during my writing day unless one or more of the following conditions has been met:
- Our house is on fire
- The house of Someone I Care About* is or has recently been on fire
- The town we live in is on fire
- The town I work in is on fire
- You have a lead on a new puppy for me but want me to meet it before you commit
- Someone I Care About* (see definitions in the “People I Care About” section below):
- is dying
- has died
- needs to be bailed out of jail
- is in Grave Mortal Danger
(Note: “Grave Mortal Danger” may include but is not limited to being admitted to the hospital or having been in an accident. “Grave Mortal Danger” does not include wanting money to pay bills, has the flu, has an administrative question, wonders where something is, is concerned or excited about the status of Today’s Politics, or has heard a great joke.)
- Viggo Mortensen and/or Geddy Lee and/or the ghost of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien are standing at the door asking to talk to me
- Peter Jackson called and wants to discuss the movie rights for my book
- A movie producer other than Peter Jackson has called and wants to discuss the movie rights for my book AND will rescind their offer unless I call them back before evening
Everything else, including a unicorn taking up residence in the potting shed, can wait until evening. Also, if Christ has returned, I probably already know about it.
* People I Care About
For purposes of the above Instances, the following individuals fall under the category “Someone I Care About.” (Please note that I have additional friends scattered throughout the world, about whom I do care, but these would be most likely to contact me directly rather than through you via our landline.)
- my children and/or their spouses and/or their children or anyone about whom they are concerned enough to contact us
- your children and/or your children’s significant others and/or your children’s significant others’ children or anyone about whom they are concerned enough to contact us
- my siblings and/or their spouses or children and/or their children’s spouses or children or anyone about whom they are concerned enough to contact us
- my cousin and her spouse and children or anyone about whom they are concerned enough to contact us
- my last two remaining aunts or anyone about whom they are concerned enough to contact us (I do not, as far as I know, have any remaining uncles. If someone calls claiming to be my uncle, he is almost certainly a scammer.)
- Any of our immediate neighbors, or anyone (except Donald Trump) about whom they are concerned enough to contact us
- Any former member of my son’s rock band, including Hunter’s dog Zappa, or anyone (except Donald Trump) about whom they are concerned enough to contact us
- Our cats (but not the chickens. I mean, I care about them and all, but their demises are rather too common to be remarkable anymore.)
Note that I do not include my parents or your parents in the above list, as they are deceased, but if any one or more of them attempts to contact us for any reason at all, please do feel free to interrupt me!