Friday, June 4, 2010

Writing in Chaos

If there’s anything I know a lot about, it’s chaos.

As I write this post, the church ladies are setting up for a rummage sale. (My desk/office is in the fellowship hall.) People are walking in and out of the church; people are interrupting to ask me questions. It’s not an ideal place to write, but it’s where I am today.

I am a mother of five, grandmother of five, and I have three dogs. One of my sons has bipolar and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and two of them have autism, fetal alcohol syndrome and ADHD. I am the oldest of four adventurous siblings. I am married to a wonderful pastor who has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Boring and dull have never been used to describe my life.

I have never lived in quiet pastures or had much opportunity to linger by still waters. Distractions are as much a part of me as my plus size thighs. So finding quiet places to write is a challenge. But not impossible.

As a little girl, I escaped to my grandmother’s creek to sit in a tree and compose. As a romantic youngster, it was the ultimate frosting on the cake of my yearly visits to my grandparents’ farm. Grandma knew my need for quiet, alone time. And she didn’t begrudge me or question me.

After dinner, in the evenings, I placed my mother’s electric typewriter on a TV tray in my bedroom and fancied myself a Bronte, Austen or Alcott. I typed out copious amounts of wordy prose and wrote plays and musicals. Those were glorious days when technology wasn’t the distraction for kids that it is today.

If I wasn’t writing, I was reading. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing.

I can no more stop writing than a duck can refuse to swim. Chaos doesn’t stop me. It delays me at times, to be sure, but stop me? Never.

I do have a few tricks up my sleeve:

1. I have a sign on my office door that says, “Do Not Enter – Writer at Work (Unless you come bearing a publishing contract or chocolate.)” When I hung that on my door, my kids laughed. They pretty much ignore it. But, at least, they know when I’m in there, I’m working. And I can point to the sign. Then the sign’s the bad guy instead of me.

2. I use headphones quite a bit. My husband loves to spend time with me (I am blessed!) but writing means time alone. He seems to like it just fine if I’m writing on the couch beside him instead of in the office away from him. He gets to watch what he wants on TV, and I get some work done. The kids and dogs are running in and out, but because I’m listening to Yo-Yo Ma at full blast, I am blissfully unaware. (Okay, not completely, but enough to concentrate and write.)

3. I am learning to guard my writing time as a lioness her cubs. If I don’t respect that time, how will anyone else? If I bend to pressure of going out with friends, or doing something for the church during my writing time, it’s my own fault.

4. I do a lot of writing in the bathtub and shower. I get great ideas in there. I even compose songs. It’s the one room in the house that my boys seem to – sort of – leave me alone. Not always. But at least it’s easier to ignore the banging door and screams when the water’s running.

5. The most important way I find peace is spending time alone with God before the kids wake up or after they are busy doing something. However, if I don’t do it first thing (before they wake up) it’s really difficult to get in that spot because once the day is rolling – so is the chaos. I find that if I give that time to God, He multiplies my ability to get more done during the day. I’m not sure how that works, but while there is chaos all around me, there is peace inside of me. Because of Him, I can find the tranquility I crave in my writing place.

I’m curious to learn how others find their quiet place. Where do you go? How do you find it? What do you do?


  1. I'm SO impressed that you get ANY writing done at all! Obviously, God inspires you inspite of everything. . . or maybe because of everything in your life. . . Your blog made me smile and cheer, plus made me count my blessings for ALL the peace and quiet I enjoy these days (altho' it hasn't always been so). I need REAL quiet to write what I write, and I often have it, thanksfully. I applaud you, Karla! :-)

  2. What a beautiful post Karla! My life is not as busy as yours, so I don't have as much trouble finding the time.
    My problem is procrastination. lol I need to work on using my time more wisely. Heh.
    Love your post and thanks for the tips!

  3. Karla, I soooo related to you on this. I live in eye of the hurricane at times. It's hard to ever find a PLACE so I can concentrate. I have to "hear" myself think, being so auditory.

    I've tried headphones. They don't work because my husband lifts them off to speak with me, or the boys do. The dog hits me with her nose or paws. Sigh.

    I do have this closet, rather small, that I've thought of crawling into...

  4. I think we all have to find what works for us to get our writing done, and I'm finding that mine changes regularly. For now, I am a work-at-home mom with two young kids. I get up before they awaken in the morning, and try to work some more when the youngest is napping in the afternoon. It's never perfect - and I know the naps will disappear eventually - but I'll find a way to keep it going! (Headphones don't work for me either ... people just yell louder to get my attention! LOL)