Friday, July 29, 2011

Writing with Houseguests: An Oxymoron?

It has come to my attention that when one lives in someplace as beautiful as North Idaho, one tends to attract houseguests in the summertime. We didn't attract as many guests in our old home, but since moving to North Idaho, we have become amazingly popular.

We love our houseguests. We love sharing our home and catching up and renewing friendships and sharing the glory of our mountains, lakes, and forests. But in between outings and meals and gab sessions, how do you get any writing done? Do you just forget about writing and pick it up after the guests go home? What if there are deadlines to meet? What if the creative juices are flowing? What if going too long without writing makes you cranky and difficult? (Not that I know anyone who's like that, of course...)

Some of you write amidst a large family all the time, and houseguests slip easily into the mix. "What's the big deal?" you say to me, mystified.

But some of you might be more like me. While I have an ideal set-up for an introverted writer--a small household, the proverbial "room of one's own," and loads of quiet--having houseguests really throws me for a loop, creatively speaking. Even when we're not actively doing something together, even when they graciously give me time and space to get some writing done, I have trouble concentrating. I'm still aware of their presence every moment. It's like I can hear them breathing, out there in the living room. I imagine that they're checking their watches and wondering when I'll be free and what's for lunch. Deadlines loom, but creative powers desert me because somebody needs a towel and somebody else needs help figuring out the TV remote and a young somebody is Sooooo Booooored.

Help me, scribes. Do any of you have tips on how to combine writing and hospitality?


elizabethbrinton said...

Oh boy. I really know this one. My attempts to eke out writing time have never been really successful when I have guests. I feel that they are thinking I could take a day or two off. Even clearing out the morning seems impossible. No one gets out of the house until at least eleven, and like you, by then I can't think. I resentfully imagine that more successful writers, like say, Pat Conroy, do not have to put up with being disturbed. I think people like him have publishing deadlines and oh yes, a wife who can communicate the importance of leaving him free to create.
I wish I had the answer for this, but I do not. I do like the fact that I am not alone with this angst.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

What excellent timing for this post! We took our visitors to the airport today. Although I love having our family visit, I have learned that it is best for me to set all writing projects aside until the visit is over. It is too difficult to get the concentration time needed to get into the writing mode when people are around.