Monday, January 23, 2012

Help! I'm writing and I can't sit Christa Allan

If I'd been more serious about writing novels years ago, I'd have a much cleaner house. No, not because I would have sold millions and been able to afford a full-time housekeeper  (though I’m still nurturing that dream).

The good news/bad news is that I could have accomplished the turbo-clean without publication.

It seems that all I have to do is sit at my computer, lift my hands to the keyboard a la concert pianist, and dust bunnies start multiplying before my eyes. I notice the coffee cup rings on my desk, the cat hair floating lyrically through the air and gliding to a stop on chairs, the sun glistening on the polished wood floors which are almost now evenly covered with their protective layer of microscopic crud, the open-mouthed toilets--not even in view--are taunting me. Yesterday, after 30.6 seconds in front of the monitor, I pounced up to (gasp) vacuum. And (double gasp) re-organized my closet. Well, no, let’s say organized because the “re” would suggest it was organized in the first place.

Writing is lonely. Not counting the three cats, two of which are mildly neurotic (save me the animals reflect their owners psychobabble, but you're doing it anyway, aren't you?), it's just me, my lukewarm cup of coffee, and my laptop.

Not that I'd want an audience. Might make for a quirky SNL skit though. Massive desk, state of the art computer, spotlight on the keyboard, writer dressed in tuxedo slowly walks on stage, gently slides back ergonomically designed chair, flips on the monitor and starts his/her fingers dancing on the keyboard. The audience follows his/her progress on the large screen projected to the right and back of the writer. Chapter ends. Applause.

But, seriously, what I did not understand until I came to the keyboard in pursuit of writing with the intent to actually produce something publishable, is that while I may be surrounded by external silence, my head is crammed with uninvited guests.

In one corner, the petulant children whine about all the places they'd rather be, asking why we're spending so much time sitting in this boring room when it's really such a pretty day outside and we could being doing something like pulling weeds.

In another corner, the brats who are causing all sorts of trouble with house cleaning distractions, playing with the telephone reminding me of calls I should be making, telling me I need to compulsively check my email because the editor whose name I added an extra "s" to might be knocked off his chair by my agent’s query, completely overlook my written lisp, and be attaching a contract AT THIS VERY NANOSECOND (brats scream...yeesh).

And somewhere, roaming around aimlessly, is the worrywart aunt, wearing mismatched ankle socks with her orthopedic shoes, wondering about the physical and mental healths of my immediate family, genoicide, taxes, and world peace.

The worst of the pack is the sneering and arrogant bullies, rocking back on their chairs asking me who I think I am that I could be on a bookshelf with the likes of ___________(insert almost any author's name here), don't I know that I'm justateacher. Just when I quiet everyone else, one of the bullies yawns and stretches to his/her nine feet tall self, looks at me, and laughs.

It's then I realize that the only way to shut them up is to drown them in words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters. And when I'm finally there, I'm going to throw my book at them.

P.S. I've reached the sad conclusion that some days I spend more time writing about the fact that I'm not writing than I do writing the writing that I am writing about not writing. 

Here's the cover of my February release as evidence that the battle continues:
Christa Allan is the author of Walking on Broken GlassThe Edge of Grace, and Love Finds You in New Orleans. You can find her at www.christaallan.comFacebook, andTwitter. When she's not frantically meeting deadlines, watching dust bunnies, and emptying boxes, she teaches high school English. Christa and her husband recently moved to New Orleans to live in a home older than their combined ages. Their three neurotic cats are adjusting.


  1. I love the colors of your cover. So lush. Fun blog. Especially like the lyrically floating cat hair. I have dog hair but it kind of just scuds around in clots.

  2. Hey Christa, fellow high school English teacher here (well, not any longer. I taught for 15 years but left the classroom 6 years ago except for when I cover maternity leaves for my teacher buddies. Anyway.)--my house is JUST like yours . . . full of chores/responsibilities that never need to be done until I sit down to write. Good luck!

  3. Crista, thanks for your words. My circumstances are similar. Only it's dog hair that settles on my coffee table, balls up in the corners, and causes me to have to change the AC filters more often than I want. My computer keyboard, however, is dust free.

  4. Christa, My house is never cleaner than when I have a tough plot problem I can't solve. And though I know I'm NOT writing, sometimes the solution will come to be while I'm tripping up and down the stairs. However, my house, like my mind, is still a wreck! Great post and enjoy your New Orleans life!

  5. Not a cleaner here but I do love your cover.

  6. I *wish* I could say I'm moved to clean house when I sit down to write--for me it's email/Twitter/research (for writing, of course!)/blogs/paying the bills/etc. Any electronic distraction will do it, really...

  7. Your contract didn't come with a housekeeper either… What if our housekeepers ran off together? Hey, that could be a romance novel plot!

  8. Thanks GFs for taking time out of your busy writing (ahem!) to leave your words of encouragement and solidarity.

    Perhaps, Cathy, there's a group of housekeepers bemoaning that they break out in spurts of writing when they're trying to clean...

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