First of all, neighbors, friends, and even families and door-to-door sales people seem to think if you’re home you’re available.
I know, I don’t understand why this is true either – but it is.
Maybe it’s because people don’t associate working at home with legitimate work. Many seem to think real work, including freelance writing, takes place away from home, in an office or even a coffee shop.
This mostly reflects that few folks have any idea at all what’s actually involved in writing or running a freelance writing business.
Writers set boundaries by training
The only way to get family, friends, and neighbors to respect your writing time is to train them.
This is probably easier with family than with others, but the training often has to be repeated every few months. It’s just too easy to pop in and ask dad a quick question, or for mom to respond to sibling arguments – even if there’s another adult to around who could handle the problem.
Yes, sometimes it’s we writers who also need to train ourselves to just grit our teeth and let the family problem work itself out. When children are young, this won’t work – you either need someone to help, like a nanny or to schedule your writing time around naps. Once they get off to school things get easier.
Training spouses is not easy either. Patience and repetition seem to be the keys.
What about neighbors and friends who drop in?
Neighbors and friends often respond to a different sort of training. That’s the consensus at our About Writing Squared Forum. One of our members was having a heck of a time with two of his neighbors. There was lots of understanding and some darn fine suggestions, including:
A do not disturb sign on the door – didn’t have to be fancy, just clear.
A talk with each neighbor and friends about not disturbing the writer – best time to do this was when the writer wasn’t upset. This might include working out a signal, like a sign, and explaining when it was okay to visit.
Not answering the door – sure, the knocking or doorbell ringing would interrupt the writing flow in that moment, but the neighbor might eventually get the idea.
Remembering there’s no need to people-please – it’s so tempting to think we have to keep everyone happy. We don’t. In fact, when we try, it usually doesn’t work.
Being willing to retrain – some people simply need to be reminded more than once before they get it. This is one reason a sign can be effective.
Then there’s the phone
The easiest way writers can set boundaries with the phone is by turning it off during working hours. After all, if you had a regular job, people wouldn’t expect you to be able to have long, gossipy calls.
I turn my phone off but leave it where I can see the blinking light if a call comes in. A quick glance at caller ID tells me if I need to answer or not.
Others have found it works if they leave a message on their voice mail stating the time of day they will return calls.
Obviously writers set boundaries in all sorts of ways. The understanding that’s needed is it’s up to you to determine how you want to handle interruptions in your home office, but handle them you must.
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Write well and often,