How Writers Ruin Relationships

This entry is cross-posted at the Liars Club website as the answer to: How does writing affect your relationships?

Writing is a solitary business when you are in the creative stages of things, but life is not a solitary business, so naturally there are conflicts.

I’m a wife, a mother, a homeowner, a scout leader, a friend.  I belong to various groups, have to attend meetings, clean house, make meals, food shop, do laundry, watch out for my kids, listen and lend a helping hand to people I care about. But when I’m in the creative mode, it’s like other parts of my brain just shut down. I don’t know how else to describe this. It can definitely cause problems.

See, when I’m in the middle of plotting a scene, I have no idea that several hours have passed and my daughter is waiting impatiently in front of her school for me to pick her up.  I don’t feel hunger, unlike my husband, who will tiptoe into my writing studio around 8:30 p.m. and say, “Are we ever going to eat?” When I’m really into the thick of writing, I don’t notice that someone is out of clean underwear, or that I’ve missed a meeting. And I won’t even go into what my poor dog has to endure.

I try to keep functioning. I talk on the phone in the evening with my mom, and find I barely can form sentences. I run to the food store, but wander around without a clue of what to buy. I can’t seem to plan anything but what happens next in my book. To the untrained eye, I’m just another flake.

But actually, I’m only like this when I’m in the midst of my writing.  When my scene is written or my deadline met, I’m a whirl of efficiency. I’m organized, I’m a planner, I’m a cleaner, I’m Supermom. In short, I’m coherent. This is confusing to folks. Who am I, really? The person who seemed to check out of a conversation? Or the one who thoroughly planned a trip to Europe for a slew of Girl Scouts? Well, I’m both.

I’ve had some pissed off friends over the years who have never called me back because my brain misplaced some very important detail about their lives. It’s as if I’ve forgotten their name (and sometimes I have). As if they don’t matter. I try to explain this away: I’m vague. I’m sorry.

But the people who are still with me – my family (who is stuck with me) and my friends – have come to understand this ebb and flow part of my personality.  My husband sees that writer mode kick in and suddenly starts feeding me and the kids, and handling life’s daily demands.  My kids recognize what is happening and suddenly become more self-sufficient and start reminding me of things like “sign this form now” and “remember the parent teacher conference in one hour.”  And my friends don’t expect me to necessarily call them back. They understand that they have to grab me out of my studio if they ever want to hang out with me.

And I’m grateful.  I feel taken care of.  I’m allowed to be that creative productive writing flake for a while.  And when I finally come back to earth, I make sure to take extra good care of the understanding folks in my life. Man, do they deserve it.

So I wonder, am I the only one like this? If you do creative writing, does your everyday brain get scrambled too?  Comment with your thoughts!