I have noticed a trend lately in my phone conversations: they all get interrupted.

For instance, I’m talking to one of my sisters and she says: “So what are you going to do for — Did you finish that science homework? Well, go do it. Now. — your birthday this year?”

Talking to a fellow writer: “And the agent called me back and was really interested and asked — You should have been in bed ten minutes ago! Turn off that light! — to see a full.”

Talking to my mom: “And I just finished reading a really interesting book that I think you’d — oh, can you hold on? I’ve got another call — click.

Talking to my daughter as she walks across campus: “And yeah, so I was up till like one o’clock studying and I’m so freaking — Hi, Trey — hang on, mom — did you [hand covers phone] mrpffl, brmph, skrfpl, ok, I’ll see you then — mom? I’m back and God, I have so much homework and I’m so freaking tired.”

It’s not that I consider this behavior to be rude, because I don’t. Not really. It’s just life. And the funny thing is, not long ago it was my life. I used to create those same interruptions all the time.

Not long ago, picking up the phone and dialing a number, especially a long distance number, was guaranteed to set off some primal urge in my children to engage in activity that required my immediate intervention. Or it would activate some secret call waiting code and cause every person I know to call me at the same time.

Not these days. These days, if another call comes in while I’m on the phone I ignore it, knowing full well it’s a computer trying to sell me a satellite dish or a recording of a politician’s wife telling me to vote. And I don’t believe the cat has ever engaged in activity requiring my immediate intervention.

What no one seems to realize, though, is that their call has interrupted ME. And my writing. But if I tried to explain, they’d think: Yeah, yeah, big deal, it’s just words — you can get back to it later, right?

Right. After all, it’s not like lives hang in the balance.

And, really, what would my mom think if I suddenly stopped her mid-sentence and said: “Hang on, my heroine is trying to decide why, if she trusts this guy not to kill her, she can’t trust him enough to let him seduce her?”

Or if I said to my daughter: “One minute, my hero is trying to decide whether it might make his life easier to just kill her now rather than keep trying to get her to tell him the truth.”

And I’m sure my neighbor would understand if I said: “Let me call you right back about that geranium sale because, over in the back yard, the bad guy has just lit the match that will start the four-alarm fire that will have my hero and heroine putting aside their differences and fighting for their survival when they realize the house is on fire and they have to move the dead body before all the evidence goes up in flames. And I’m trying to remember whether I wrote the scene where the heroine took all those incriminating documents and hid them in a safe place, which is NOT in the house, or whether I just imagined that part.”

But no, I don’t do that. Has anyone ever heard me say: “Hold on while I finish writing this kiss.” Or “Just a minute, I think I’ve figured out an important motivation here, give me a second to get it on paper.”

No, you have not. But maybe that’s all about to change.

Just giving advance notice. From now on, you call me, you run the risk of being interrupted.


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4 responses to “Interruptions

  1. Bryan

    You go girl. I’ve decided that there is a reason I have voicemail on the phone. If I’m writing, you should just pretend that I went out for the evening. It’ll feel better than thinking I’m ignoring your call.


  2. Jen-t

    BCB – Yeah, I hear ya. I know I’m one of the worst offenders and I’m also one of those bad people who screen their calls. Yeah, I do. Unless you are one of my children or my husband, I might ignore you. Funny, the phone rang this morning, I looked at the caller ID and went, “I’ll call them later.” So when I did call them later I got, “So, Jen, screening your calls again.” Snort.


  3. rssasrb

    Screening calls is why we have caller ID.

    Your book is important. Write. Don’t answer the phone. They’ll call back. If they are like my mother, they will call eight times to tell you they called. Tough.

    I like Bryan’s advice. You’re not home. Your cell phone is dead. You are in the middle of something important. Your book.


  4. Mary

    Would these people call you when you were at work and expect you to stop working because it was a good time for them to call? And if they did call, you would have no hesitation saying “I’m in the middle of something, I’ll have to call you back.”

    Anyone who thinks writing isn’t work has never tried to do it.

    Most humans are trainable, given enough time and patience. (Well, except for a couple of ex-boyfriends, but we won’t go there… 😉

    wnijeeu – what you should mutter under your breath when the phone rings, while you go right on writing.