Last Thursday, I came home to something eerily unfamiliar –silence.
It was the first time in over a month I’ve been alone in my own home. Though acquiring two twenty-something male housemates during the divorce has helped me pay the mortgage without selling animal porn online, “alone time” has become a distant memory. Even Thursday night’s reprieve was short-lived once a housemate came home with a six-pack of beer and a plan to play guitar on the deck all evening.
For introverts like me, “alone time” is a crucial part of recharging your batteries. Even extrovert writers require it to some degree, and that's challenging when you share your home with spouses, friends, children, or celebrities seeking asylum after faking their own death.
Though locking them in the basement can be tempting, the law tends to frown on this. Here are a few things I’ve found that help when “alone time” eludes me.
I’ll admit it, I’m a social media whore. It’s easy to justify Twitter and Facebook and blogging as vital elements of book promotion, but how much energy do I burn pausing in the middle of a manuscript edit to check just one email? How long does it take me to get back into writing a chapter after stopping to send a pithy tweet about chewing a sliver from my toe?
Jonathan Fields recently blogged about what a drain these things can be when it comes to creativity and productivity. I’m seriously considering having this post tattooed on my forearm. Read it, and then remind yourself that it’s OK to miss phone calls, ignore tweets, or not respond immediately to that important email about discounted nipple tassels.Limiting your human interaction – even the virtual kind – can go a long way toward giving you quiet time you’re craving.
The housemate arrangement is new to me, so I’ll admit that when the boys settle in on the sofa for a movie marathon and a meatloaf the size of a Chrysler, I’m reluctant to ruin their evening. Likewise, friends with small children tell me it’s tough to turn down a toddler’s plea for attention, even when it comes at the expense of carefully planned writing time.
But I’m learning it’s OK to close the office door from time to time. It’s even OK to let others know you’ve got a scheduled window of time for productivity, and that while you appreciate their urgent need to play Electroplankton on the Nintendo, you need a little peace and quiet for an hour after dinner. As long as no one’s bleeding and nothing is on fire, it’s OK to safeguard some “alone time” for the sake of your own sanity and productivity.
It's not always practical to muzzle housemates or tell your spouse to go sit on the porch all night so you can finish a chapter. That doesn’t mean you can’t reclaim your “alone time” elsewhere. How about a quick bubble bath or a trip to the closest coffeehouse with your laptop? For me, the quickest battery recharge comes from taking a nice hike with my dog. Picking up poop in a baggie is a small price to pay for a bit of exercise and an hour with someone who doesn’t talk to me about whose turn it is to buy dish soap.
Those are my tips for reclaiming “alone time.” What are yours?How do you recharge when the demands of human interaction get to be too much?Please share, I need all the tips I can get!