While I do not make my living as a writer, I do consider myself part of that sometimes disreputable clan. While much can be said about writers, one thing that I hear rather often is that writers tend to be anti-social (at least when they write). Since I know numerous self-proclaimed writers who make a point of writing in very social settings, I am well aware that the anti-social label is not one that should be considered universally applying to all writers. It should also not be taken to apply to writers at all times. After all, while I consider myself to be a bit anti-social when writing, I am otherwise a rather social person-especially for a nerdtastic introvert.
As far as why I consider myself anti-social as a writer, it is because I prefer to avoid interacting with people when I am trying to write. When I am seriously engaged in writing, I do not check my email, I do not have any chat software going (okay, I never actually do), and I feel ever increasing resentment with every ring of the phone. While I can tolerate having people around when I write, I feel a perhaps irrational level of irritation with every interruption inflicted upon me. As such, when I am writing I endeavor to be away from people.
It is not that I do not like people or consider my writing to be of greater value than interacting with people. What it is, I think, is something that appears to be inherent in the nature of writing-or, more accurately, in the nature of my writing.
While I can hack out words under almost any circumstances, true and proper writing seems to require the right sort of conditions. These seem to involve relative quiet and a freedom from interruptions and distractions. Since other people are an abundant source of interruptions and distractions, it is natural for writers to try to avoid them while writing.
I have also found that writing shares a lot in common with running. While I can almost always run or write, there are times when I am in (as they say) the zone. In the case of running, I feel like I am flying over the terrain. In the case of writing, the ideas and words are pouring forth in an almost magical stream. Of course, this can be broken. In the case of running, if someone or something stops me, it is hard to get back into that zone again. The same holds for writing-if someone interrupts me and forces me to stop, the spell is broken and the magic is gone. Sometimes I can get back into that writing groove, but I often cannot. I can still push the keys, but it is just not the same.
Non-writers, as the Tea Party folks might say, generally don’t get it. Since they do not understand, they tend to resent any resentment shown by writers who they interrupt-especially when their interruption was an attempt to do something they regard as nice. For example, a husband might bring his wife a beer while she is writing and try to engage her in conversation about her writing with the intent of being supportive. However, he might not realize that she was in the middle of a very good idea and now has found that the thread of thought has become tangled. Writers, not surprisingly, often over-react to interruptions, thus making them rather annoying.
Some writers attempt to address this problem by making it clear that they should not be interrupted while writing (except for matters of importance). Wise writers are careful to make sure that this practice does not damage their relationships with other people. After all, many people find the idea of someone placing themselves “off limits” to be annoying. However, it can be useful to discuss the matter with such people and get them to understand by drawing analogy to activities they do that they do not want interrupted (such as watching a movie, engaging in a hobby or sleeping).
This method can be effective, provided that it is done with due respect for others and handled in a tactful manner. Of course, some people just cannot resist interrupting and annoying other people.