Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why It's a Sign of Love for Writers to Tell Their Families to Bugger-Off

Today is Father's Day in the U.S., so I'm posting a photo of my father, from back in the day. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and died in the line of duty in 1969, a year or so after this photo was taken.

For those of you doing the math (yes, that's me holding the apple, but what was up with all the ric-rac on the dress??), that means I didn't really know my dad. I learned very early in life to treasure my family, because sometimes people just don't come home.

It's important to remind ourselves to value our loved ones, especially the ones we live with, day-in and day-out. It's easy to take those people for granted, to use them as convenient targets for our deflected frustrations, to fail to show them the love we have, deep in our hearts.

When tragedy occurs and we lose someone, with grief comes regret. It seems to come hand in hand, that creeping sense that we somehow could have done more. Spent more time with them, valued them more, loved them more. You see it all the time - following loss people exhort each other "go home and hug your children!" As if they somehow could have staved off that sense of regret.

But I have news for them. Regret will always follow loss. We will never stop regretting that someone we loved died.

Because that's what it truly is. In the mire of emotion, we wrap it up with guilt and displace to thinking we somehow could have done something more. But really, it's just grief.

Which is why you should always feel free to tell your loved ones to bugger off while you're writing.


See, how you feel about them is how they feel about you. (If all is right in your world - if that's not the case, then you have other issues to deal with.) Writing is your art, your self-expression, your (hopefully) career. It takes A LOT of concentration. Most of us write because we need to. It feeds a part of us that would starve without it, like a manacled prisoner forgotten in the dungeon. Writing time is sacred.

If your loved ones love you, they won't encroach on it.

But they do, don't they? They encroach all the damn time.

This is because they forget. They're absorbed in *their* things and they forget not to encroach.

"Can I ask you just one question?" they'll ask, not realizing that by asking that question, they've already snapped you out of the trance.

"Oh, are you writing?" they say in a surprised tone, as if it's not your usual time and like they can't see you, tapping furiously on the keyboard.

So, how do you keep them from encroaching on your writing time? Remind them. Gently, lovingly, with all the affection in your heart for their foible that makes them think finding the stamps Right Now is the most important thing in the world.

Smile and say. "I'm writing right now."

"I'll find them when I'm done writing."

"I'll take a break in about an hour and I'll help you then. For now I can't talk to you."

Repeat as necessary.

Some people may require more forceful reminding - you know how to communicate with them best. Children and husbands, in particular, may ask you to demonstrate your love for them by placing them first. Instead, reverse it and ask them to demonstrate their love for you by giving you that time.

Repeat as necessary.

After all, the best way to stave off regret is to live life to its fullest extent. By devoting ourselves to our art, we're developing ourselves and contributing to the world. Adding joy and pleasure to the lives of others is no small thing. Our loved ones love that about us. It's part and parcel of who we are. They just have to be reminded, sometimes sternly, sometimes gently, always lovingly, that they need to bugger off and leave us alone when we're writing.

Repeat as necessary.


  1. "Instead, reverse it and ask them to demonstrate their love for you by giving you that time."

    YES! This. Don't feel guilty for making the request.

  2. The good thing of living with an illustrator/artist is that he understands how important it is to not be disturbed when working. When the door is closed only really important things warrant interruption.

  3. Exactly. Great post, Jeffe. The Kid learned early in my writing career to stand and wait until I looked up at her before she started speaking - because she could totally derail me. Now it's just me and the Hubs. He does his things on his computer and I don't bother him (much). I do mine on my computer and he doesn't bother me (much). But we've been at this long enough that neither of us has to tell the other to bugger off anymore. ;o)