Please join the Chicks in welcoming Sybil Johnson, author of the Aurora Anderson mysteries. The fourth book in the series, DESIGNED FOR HAUNTING, releases this month!
Writing While the Walls Come Tumbling Down
I used to live in a very quiet neighborhood. The only sounds you heard on a typical day were lawnmowers, leaf blowers, the occasional car engine, and children playing in their backyards. Most of the time, though, it was blissfully quiet.
Then the Great Construction Period began.
For the last seven years, there’s been at least one house under construction on our block. Yep, 7 years. Not kidding. Seven years of continuous construction. No sooner is one house finished than another begins. Seven years of heavy equipment tearing down older homes and replacing them with much larger ones. Seven years of banging, jack hammering, sawing and vibrating steel posts into the ground.
This is not unusual in the city I live in. We seem to be “enjoying” a construction boom. You can’t walk more than two blocks without finding a house being torn down or remodeled. I’m happy for the construction industry for all those jobs that have been created. It hasn’t always been this way. Still, it can be annoying.
I live in a beach city so the lots aren’t terribly large (40 feet wide by 120 feet long is a fairly large one) and the houses are right next to each other. That means you hear and feel everything.
It’s all a bit distracting to say the least.
Still, I’ve somehow managed to revise or completely write four books (FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, PAINT THE TOWN DEAD, A PALETTE FOR MURDER and the soon-to-be-released DESIGNED FOR HAUNTING) during the Great Construction Period. It hasn’t been the easiest thing.
Some writers can write no matter what’s going on around them. I know a number who regularly write at Starbucks or some other coffee shop. I’m not one of those. I don’t even like writing in a relatively quiet library. I want to be home with my things surrounding me.
When this all started, the house right next door to ours was torn down and replaced with another, much larger, one. That took five years. Not joking. Keep in mind that our houses are only about twelve feet apart. And, of course, my office is on the side of the house facing the construction site. Six days a week I was treated to the pounding of hammers, the teeth rattling sound of jackhammers and, on occasion, loud music.
At first, I did a lot of yelling out of windows telling them to turn the music down. Or I stomped around the house, grumbling to myself. I soon realized, however, that neither was a very constructive response and I still had deadlines.
So I pulled on my big girl pants and learned to deal with it. I bought myself some noise canceling headphones for the really bad days and took my laptop into other parts of the house that were a little more removed from the noise. Gradually, I got used to the sounds. I realized the other day that it’s all become background noise to me and that I barely notice it anymore unless it’s particularly loud or obnoxious. I still get super annoyed on occasion and stomp around the house, but overall I’ve learned to co-exist with what’s going on outside.
An unexpected plus from this experience—all of the murderous plots involving construction swirling around in my head. I wrote some construction issues into my second book, PAINT THE TOWN DEAD, and am featuring some others in the book I’m working on now. I also have a short story outlined, which I have yet to write, that involves neighbors arguing over construction. Plus I have other ideas: bodies found in Porta Potties, bodies “falling” off of roofs, bodies found in poured concrete…the possibilities are endless.
What have I learned from this experience? I’ve come to the conclusion there is no writing environment that’s perfect for me. There will always be distractions—from the outside or from within. You’ve just got to sit down, ignore it all the best of your ability and write.
Readers, what are your preferred working locations? Can you concentrate with construction or other noises all around you? Please say hello to Sybil in the comments below.
After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil Johnson turned to a life of crime writing. She wields pen and paint brush from her home in Southern California where she writes the Aurora Anderson mystery series set in the world of tole/decorative painting (Fatal Brushstroke, Paint the Town Dead, A Palette for Murder and Designed For Haunting).