Interruptions interfere with writing

Years ago, my writ­ing desk was in a corner of the liv­ing room. I worked with people com­ing and go­ing, kids ask­ing what was for din­ner and the phone ringing.

But not anymore.

Now I can’t stand the slight­est in­tru­sion into my thought pro­cess. If someone in­ter­rupts me while I’m work­ing it seems to take forever to get back on track. And if it hap­pens more than once with­in a short peri­od of time I turn into a rav­ing man­ic de­mand­ing that every­one be quiet so I can work.

Even the sound of someone rust­ling the pages of a news­pa­per or sneez­ing in the next room is distracting.

For a long time I thought it was just me. Some quirky idio­syn­crasy that I’d have to live with. Well, it turns out I do have to live with it but so do most people over a cer­tain age.

Researchers at the University of California have dis­covered that people over 60 have more trouble switch­ing from one neur­al net­work to an­oth­er than young­er folks. That means if they’re do­ing some­thing and are briefly in­ter­rup­ted, it takes them longer to get re­ab­sorbed in their project.

In oth­er words, do­ing, hear­ing or see­ing more than one thing at a time be­comes more dif­fi­cult as you get older. I’m not 60 yet so must be go­ing through early on­set in­ter­rup­tion fatigue.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Most of the time my part­ner­’s pretty good about tip-toe­ing around but our her­it­age house wasn’t de­signed with any quiet areas in mind. I’ve tried noise can­cel­ling head­phones but they give me a headache.

And then there’s the phone. At times, to avoid be­ing dis­trac­ted, I simply don’t an­swer it. But now just the ringing is enough to scat­ter my thoughts like maple leaves in the wind.

So, what are my op­tions? A sound proof of­fice would be per­fect but is not prac­tic­al in this house.

An of­fice in an out­build­ing is a pos­sib­il­ity. I al­ways said I didn’t want a sep­ar­ate stu­dio but, as the years go by and my sens­it­iv­ity to in­ter­rup­tions in­creases, the thought of a totally quiet space grows more appealing.

If I don’t be­come hard of hear­ing, a shed out back just might be the answer.


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