When I'm in the zone, my fingers can't keep up. I'm watching the movie in my head, fascinated by what my characters will do next (and they always surprise me.) That's when it happens - I hear the phone ring or realize that I have to pack for a weekend at the shore. Or my publisher calls, needing a reformat for a print version.
Turning off that interior movie is like closing a really, really good book, just as the two main characters are about to kiss, or just as you are about to find out the name of the murderer. It is a serious bummer.
Somehow the book gets written, even in the middle of all the chaos. It makes me wonder how writers used to do it in the years before computers, or typewriters even.
Look at Jane Austen. She created beautiful novels that showcased romance in the most real world terms, thus making the romance in them all the more exciting and romantic. Yet apparently she hid her work under a piece of blotting paper, should anyone enter the room.
She must have felt annoyed to be interrupted in scenes such as the one between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, when they finally declare their feelings for each other. To compound that, she was scratching her chapters out with a feather pen - on paper.
Which brings me to another point. I'm able to back up my work with the click of a mouse. What if a helpful maid came along and tidied away Jane's writing for the day? What if that maid tossed an entire chapter on the fire? We all know what if feels like to lose a day's work due to a glitch, but it's usually retrievable. For Jane, that just wasn't so.
And I'm certain that I can deal with my interruptions much faster than Miss Austen could. I can answer my publisher's questions and get off the phone, back to writing. Jane, on the other hand, would have had to get out her blotting paper, cover the scene that she was working on (trying not to forget characterization, action, and continuity) and go and have a sit down tea with her visitors. She would have to be pleasant and engaged, trying not to think of her work in progress in the other room, and whether the maid would find it and pitch it onto the hearth.
I can relate to Jane. While I was writing this column, I also made tea for my husband, packed a lunch, cooked breakfast, answered the phone, had two conversations, and sent off a PDF file to be reformatted, again, for print. And yet, here I am - at the end of the column. I did it. Miss Austen did too.
Alison DeLuca is the author of The Night Watchman Express, a YA steampunk novel.