7 Ways to Make Family and Pets Respect Your Writing Time

7 Ways to Make Family and Pets Respect Your Writing Time

Writing time is precious. Once we’re sitting at our desks, fingers poised over the keyboard as we wait to rendezvous with the characters we’ve been dreaming about all day, the last thing we want is someone barging into our solitude.

Picture this: There you are, typing merrily away, the sweet violins of inspiration gliding along in the background, when—hark!—a knock on the door, followed by a loved one’s tousled head poking around the corner, wanting to know what’s for supper. Screech. There go the violins…

It’s enough to make even the gentlest of authors go all homicidal maniac.So what can we do about it? Following are a few guidelines for getting friends, family, co-workers, and pets to respect your writing time—without your needing to resort to death threats.

1. Determine your priorities.

If you don’t make your writing a priority, why should anyone else? Before you can ask others to respect your writing, you first have to respect it yourself. Once you’ve determined your writing is worth sacrificing an hour of family time, don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for making it.

2. Explain the situation.

Don’t expect others to realize the importance of your writing via telepathy. If you don’t explain your needs to them, they’ll never be able to respect them. You have to make a point of telling them your muse turns into Rip Van Winkle every time someone bangs into your office.

3. Remain calm and kind.

By the time the third person sticks his head around your door with that query about supper, those homicidal tendencies we talked about are going to be boiling close to the surface. But instead of losing it and screaming at your interrupting interloper, remain calm. Kindly, but firmly, tell them you’re busy and ask them to wait to ask their questions until you’ve finished writing.

4. Set boundaries.

If you can establish specific boundaries, you’ll make it much easier for everyone to know where they stand (and where they shouldn’t). Let people know you’re going to be writing for the next hour. If they don’t know you’re writing, you can’t blame them for accidentally interrupting. Make sure you balance their needs with your own. Tell them that if they leave you alone for this one hour, you’ll spend the next hour helping them with their needs.

5. Schedule your writing.

Schedules can not only increase your general productivity, they can also make it much easier for other people to understand and remember at what time you need them to leave you alone. I write every day from four to six o’clock in the afternoon. Because of my consistency with this schedule, friends and family have no trouble remembering when I’m writing and, therefore, when they need to respect my need for quiet and privacy.

6. Work around your family.

We can’t always force other people into our molds, but we can work around theirs. Instead of jamming your writing into the heavy-traffic zones of your day, work around other people’s schedules. Get up early, stay up late, and stay at home when the others are out of the house.

7. Buy a flamethrower and a machete.

Finally, when all else fails (and people being, well, people, it will), it never hurts to invest in a high-quality flamethrower and machete. Keep ‘em under your desk and give them a little pat, accompanied by a knowing look, whenever somebody comes barging in. This one’s fail-safe, folks.(Oh, and, by the way, I lied. These tricks may work on your kids, but you’re on your own with your cat.)

Tell me your opinion: Do you feel your friends and family respect your writing time?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Glad you posted this. It is so hard to balance writing time with family, social networking and those of us still working the day job have even less time. Your idea about working around family time is a good resolution, resulting in less frustration for everyone. And you are also right, consistency is also important.

  2. My wonderful husband actually encouraged me to pick up writing again. I check in with him regularly to make sure he does not feel neglected. But he is super supportive which makes the journey all that more easy.

  3. @Cecilia: Writing, these days, isn’t just about finding time to write. It’s also about finding an equal or greater amount of time to promote. No wonder we’re always hunting for a few extra minutes in every day!

    @Krista: It’s always fabulous when our family members are understanding and supportive of our needs as writers. Makes things so much easier all the way around!

  4. Great post, always enjoy reading your posts! My husband doesn’t disturb me, he’s very understanding. The dog has slowly learnt that I don’t want to play ball when I’m at the desk! My child on the other hand requires more training! He always has something he’s just bursting to tell me! I’ve recently bought a parasol which I put up above my desk (it’s in the conservatory) with the rule: If it’s up, do NOT speak to me! It’s not quite working yet…

  5. Next to cats, children are the hardest to get through to on these matters, seems like. I like the parasol rule – if only because it’s a good excuse to snap the thing open now and then!

  6. ahh–great points. And I love the little kitty paws at the keyboard. LOL! 😀 I do write around my children, and thankfully, hubs respects my writing time. Unfortunately, my mother still expects me to drop everything when she calls…

    wah wah waaahhh… ;p

    but good stuff, KM!

  7. The phone is a major annoyance when writing. Sometimes I’ll unplug it, but then I always worry I’ll miss an emergency call!

  8. My daughter and her BFF made me two signs for my office door. The first one says: Come on in! I can talk. The second one says: Trust me it’s cold in here. GO IN IF YOU DARE! I promise you that my daughter did not make the second one. Really. She didn’t.

  9. Hah! At least they volunteered the signs, so you never have to feel bad about sticking them up.

  10. Yes, sometimes the anti-muse is working against you, and no matter how many you explain or set rules, the inevitable knock on the door comes. Your advice is good, though.

  11. We can’t control other people. That’s the bottom line. But we can create patterns in our own lives that will encourage others to create corresponding patterns in their interactions with us.

  12. I learnt fairly early on to set my “auto save” to as frequent intervals as it allows. I had written for hours, edited thrice, then got up to try to stretch ( yes, by then, that was a near impossible feat). Dearest cat saw that I had finally vacated that nice, warm sleeping pad and promptly deleted over half of it upon curling up. I was mortified. I stopped writing that day. It was too traumatic. I have to admit, when I started the rewrite the next day, it all flowed SO much better. I guess dearest cat knew what I didn’t then – the rewrite is nearly always better.

  13. Yikes. Kitty would not have been my friend that day. Once you (finally) get up the mental steam to rewrite a big chunk of text, it is wonderful how much better it usually is. Perhaps we should rewrite *more* of our WIPs that way!

  14. Thanks, I like this post it is very good and informative. I am sure that this post will be very helpful.

    Pet Sitting Mckinney

  15. Sometimes, words are not enough. What really matter is what you does. The reason I quote my these days fav song is I loved your 7th advice. And thinking about working on it 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      True. We have to back up our words with actions if we expect others to understand and respect them.

      • Hmmm…. But most important is stopping to feel guilty.
        Since, they are the exact peoples who make you feel guilty when you don’t produce. So why feel guilty to say no to them while you are busy producing.

  16. It’s hard for me to hash out time for writing. After work, I spend time with my family (wife and three kids, ages 4 and under). After the kids’ bedtime, I only have a few hours to juggle choirs, spending time with the wife, and having /me/ time. My wife often doesn’t understand that when I choose to write during a portion of that time, I need to be left alone. She’ll come in and want to talk about her day before she goes to bed and I just don’t have the guts to tell her to leave me alone! Bad on me, I guess lol. Usually when this happens, my momentum slams into brick wall and the session is basically a bust.
    I’m getting desperate for writing time now as my WIP is taking far too long to complete. I’m considering using my lunch breaks at work to try to scrape out some word blocks–even if I have to type on my smartphone to do it!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I would encourage you to talk about this with your wife. If nothing else, your frustration can lead to repressed anger. Much better to explain your needs and where you’re coming from and try to work out a balance that benefits you both.

  17. I tried making a sign with the word “Writing” on it and taping it to my door when explaining and scheduling a writing time didn’t work, and my family still knocks on my door with a wheedling “I know you’re writing, BUT…” And then they act all surprised when I get angry. On the other hand, their antics tend to provide some writing material…

  18. That’s it, time to sneak in to our garage and get out that machete!

    My parents are worried I’ll get the idea that focused, uninterrupted writing time isn’t how life works and interrupt me sometimes because it’s good for me. I’m not sure how to respectfully explain I’d much rather take advantage of being fourteen for as long as I can before I have even less time as I get older… so I get up at three-thirty or four A.M. to work! >:)


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