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#2 Turn Off Your Writing Brain When You Are With Other People

            I talk to myself when I’m in my writing brain. Not in a crazy way (I hope) but more in a directional way.

            “Okay, Jo,” I say as I stare at the latest draft of a manuscript on my computer, “its Kristallnacht, Vienna, Austria, 1938. Seven-year-old Liana runs to her room to get her prized carousel horses while Nazi Stormtroopers are knocking on her door.”

            My cell phone buzzes and I see it’s my mother. I hesitate to answer. I mean, the Nazis are at this poor girl’s door and I have to figure out how to save her. But, it’s my mother calling. I ignore the lessons in my #1 rule for a better writing life (turn off the cell phone!) and answer. My eyes are still focused on the computer.

            “Delores across the hall just called,” Mom says before I get out a word. My mother is a vibrant eighty years old who has no time for formalities like hello and how are you? “They’re delivering her new mattress today.”

            On my computer, Liana is trying to figure out how to pack the 12-inch high glass horses so they won’t break. Liana’s father had paid two schillings for them.

            “Are you there?” Mom asks.

            “Yes. Of course.”

            “She wants to know how much to tip the delivery people.  What should I tell her?”

            Got it. Liana and her family will hide in the attic until the Nazis are gone.

            “I think they’re here with the mattress. Jo, are you there?”

            “Yes, Mom.”

            “I hear knocking across the hall. What should I tell her?”

            “Tell her to hide in the attic until the Nazis leave.”

            “What? No, the tip? How much should she tip them?”

            “Two schillings,” I said.

            Mom is silent, a rarity. Finally, “you’re writing, aren’t you?”

            “Uh, yes. I’m sorry.”

            “Is twenty dollars good for a tip?”

            “Yes, Mom.”

            We hung up and guilt immediately rushed over me. I called her back. This time, I didn’t offer any greeting.

            “I’m sorry.”

            “I know,” she said, “you were in your writing brain.”

            We hung up again and I focused back on the page.

            “The Nazis break down the door to Liana’s apartment,” I say as I place my fingers on the keyboard and type.

            My writing brain is back on. I need to learn to turn it off when I engage with others.