Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get a Room

Anyone who has ever struggled to complete a writing assignment on deadline probably knows the Rule of Environmental Contingency, which states that you certainly would have finished your damned assignment by now if only you’d had the right workspace. The rule came into play last week, when my eight-year-old son and his friends invaded the house while I was inching my way through what should have been a straightforward profile. My problems with the piece started long before the kids showed up, but that didn’t stop me from blaming them and the noise they made. I felt like I was trying to work in the middle of a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. My immediate impulse was to run away to the local coffeehouse or the public library, but in the current Prospect Monica Ali makes another suggestion. I should have checked into a hotel.

“What you really need is to leave your life and responsibilities and just get down to it. You need a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hanging on your door, someone else to clean up, change the sheets and provide food and drink at any time you happen to take a break,” she writes. “Then there is only you and the blank page, which may or may not be a good thing.”

Sounds nice. I’m willing to give it a try. But I think Ali really gets to the heart of things when she mentions that an impatient editor once locked Hitchhiker’s’ Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams in a hotel room and ordered him to write. She quotes Adams: “I sat at the desk and typed and he sat in the armchair and glowered.”

Next time I'm just going to ask all of the kids to sit down and glower at me.

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