Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Concentration

I've run into a problem I've never had in all the years I've been writing away from home. I've written in coffeehouses, libraries, the park, and even burger joints all over the metro Atlanta area. When you're a regular at these spots, you get to know the other regulars. Everyone usually speaks, exchanges a few pleasantries, and then focuses on reading, studying, writing, etc.


Recently, I met a person who has become a regular at my favorite spot. She seems to be very nice, pleasant, extremely intelligent and well read. She expressed an interest in self-publishing, so we've had a couple of brief conversations about books and the publishing industry, but no matter the subject, this woman can veer off into a discussion about her work experience, religion, politics and even the library of Alexander the Great! 

I realized local coffeehouses are hangouts for folks who want to socialize, but I've explained to her that my time is limited, and I hang out there to work. The problem is that no matter how many times I tell her I need to concentrate and can't talk, she just goes on and on. Since I always work with music playing, I have earphones on, but she will come and stand in front of my table until I look up.  



I understand most non-writers don't comprehend that the least little interruption can yank a writer right out of the zone. Most often, when that happens, you never get the same thought back in the same way. What do you do when someone sees you working and still plops down near you and says, "I don't mean to break your concentration, but...?

To respond to her questions about e-publishing, I sent her an e-mail with several articles I'd written along with a document I put together containing tons of links to the best information out there on the subject. In the e-mail I reiterated about my time. She isn't here today, so perhaps I finally got through...



How would you handle this situation without becoming known as that "nasty writer lady"?

15 comments:

Suzanne White said...

It's unfortunate. But sometime when people insist and insist and re-insist, you just have to tell them to leave you alone. When she says, "I don't mean to break your concentration, but..."

You reply, "You did break my concentration. See that it doesn't happen again. Is that clear?"

Took me a long time to be courageous enough about my work to keep people at bay. Maybe you're too nice.

Anonymous said...

being honest with myself in answering this question I would be a bit snotty to the person and hurry them along. After that hope for the best.

Ey Wade said...

First, I can't tell if the person is male or female because you switch back and forth, this hinders my answer.
If, it's a male he could be hitting on you or just liking the conversation.
If, it's a female it could be the same thing or she needs female companionship. Either way, just come out and tell the person how you feel and how the writing life works.
No matter how you say it the person will hear what they want to hear. Or write a prepared note and the next time the person comes, give I to them

crimewriterblog.com said...

Tough dilemma. Nothing is worse than someone interrupting your flow-- I get it. I deal with this at home on occasion and never handle it well. However, at home I know my husband will always forgive me. With strangers it's a lot harder. I would just place a card (like a tiny sandwich board) on your table that reads, "Writer at work. Please respect my privacy." Or something like that. She should get the hint. Good luck.

Lily Java said...

Key here is that she STILL tries to talk when you have headphones on so she's either clueless or self-absorbed (could be both). I would write a note to her BEFORE I arrive at the cafe, then hand it to her while she's standing over me. Something like:
Hey,

Hope you're well. Thought I might see you. I'm on a major deadline. Swore to myself I would allow no distractions while I'm working so I can keep on schedule. If you need something write it down and I'll get back to you later OR I can talk for a few minutes maybe before I leave. I'll look for you. I know you know how it is and understand. Thanks! Ciao for now, Me.

Chicki Brown said...

Great suggestions, ladies! I'm going to write a note tonight and put it in my laptop bag.

Keily Denny said...

I think I would just switch the days or times that I go there or find a new place to write. If you speak to her and it doesn't go well, there will be negative energy in the room every time she is there and you will not be able to write anyways.

Chicki Brown said...

I'd thought about those options this morning, Keily, but I have to write in the morning and this is my favorite place. They even posted on their Facebook page about my books without me even asking! I've been writing there for years.

Christopher Bynum said...

I'd tell then to hold tight because I'm into writing my scene. If they disrespect my request then I don't need to know them anyway, because they don't respect the craft they claim to be interested in.

Laura Leidner said...

Lily’s idea is superb. Super direct and not passive aggressive. I was going to suggest having a rotation of coffeshops/writing locations, but it seems like that coffee shop loves you. Good luck!

Exodus said...

Well, sometimes if someone is interrupting my process, maybe I would instead of telling them to stop talking, try to veer them into what your doing. You say she is educated and well-read, then she'll be able to, instead of interrupting, helping you come up with ideas or continue with a composition.

Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku said...

A very frustrating time for you, Chicki. Find a new writing spot. I will, if I were in your shoes.

Lindsey McIntosh said...

I'm generally a nice person, but when things like that happen to me, I tend to lose my smile and not laugh with them. If changing my spot at where I write doesn't work, I will, politely, tell them to leave me alone. It's worked for me in the past.

Chicki Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chicki Brown said...

I think I've solved the problem. Went to the coffeehouse yesterday, and she was there. I said hello, got my breakfast, went back to my table and simply said, "Gotta get to work now." I put on my headphones, heard her talking to me but refused to look up and acknowledge her. Finally, she stopped.