In my previous life, I pontificated on the etiquette of iPods and in particular the signals that earbuds send out. My central thesis was that if you were foolish enough to approach someone at the lab bench who was wearing both earbuds, then you deserved to be fed to the autoclave.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Although my current job title is ‘Senior Writer’, actual writing—putting words in order to make complete sentences; prose—is not a huge part of my current gig. Most of the work tends to be slide-based, or short scripts; I do bash out a few newsletter articles each month, but as each one is designed for the attention span of a salesdroid they barely engage the star drive at all.
These last few days, however, I’ve been writing a white paper. Total length is going to be around four thousand words, and as it doesn’t need to be point referenced it should be simply a case of looking at my source material and knocking out some sentences that hold together and build a coherent argument.
The problem is that in my open-plan office, where there are three professional writers to about 20 other editorial staff and two dozen account management trolls, nobody really understands that what a writer really, really needs apart from a regular supply of tea, coffee and gin, is reasonably extended periods of uninterrupted tappity-tap time in which to craft the Words.
So I sit in at my keyboard, do a bit of reading, do a bit of thinking, and then type maybe half a dozen wo—
“Do you have time to call John tomorrow?”
“No but I can make Wednesday at eight. Send me an invite.”
Where was I? Um, yes. Hang on, let me answer that email. Right, so the problem with small-animal models for infection is that—
“Richard, can you review this graphic?”
“What? Let me see. Oh good grief. Look, it’s meant to be a superscript, not a subscript. OK? Think you can handle that? Tell Sarah to check the brand guidelines too, because I’m sure the client’s drug isn’t meant to be puce.”
Oh, a colleague has just Skyped me. I need to find that file… click click send.
Right. So, we’re talking about infection, and these models, and I just had a really good way of putting that, perhaps if I—
“Can you join this call, Richard?”
You see my problem? Because most of the work we do is quite granular, and because Certain People would have no fucking clue what Creativity is if it were a non-inferiority endpoint in a phase III clinical trial, it takes me six times as long to do anything as I actually quoted for. Each interruption actually adds about 15 minutes to the task, as it takes about that long to get back in the zone.
Yes, I like to work from home, and I’m far more productive there; but it’s not always possible (or socially acceptable).
I have tried simply ignoring people, at least until I get to the end of the sentence I’m currently writing, but then they go off in a huff and say rude things about me to HR. I’m considering having a sign made that says “Sod off—I’m writing”, but I don’t think that’d be particularly politic either.
So I’ve been trying sitting there with my iPod on—or at least my earbuds in—with a fresh cup of tea, LookOut minimized, and trying to hit that Zen-like focus point where I can—
“Richard. Richard. RICHARD.”
Sad to say, some of my cow-orkers are in dire need of re-education.