I.M. Free

By LaShawn M. Wanak

I don’t do much online chatting anymore, which is a shame because I like shooting a quick message to my husband or saying hi to a friend. But ever since I started writing seriously, I just can’t do it anymore. Yes, I understand that IMing during my writing time should be a big no-no. For a stay-at-home mother like me, however, it’s not that simple.

One afternoon, I get a call from my husband at work. He wants to talk about some errands he wants me to do later, then tells me to open my chat program so he can IM me.

“Why can’t you just tell me over the phone?” I ask.

“It’s easier on IM,” he says.

“You couldn’t do this earlier?”

“I was busy. This is the only chance I have to talk to you.”

I glance at the clock. 3:00 p.m. I just put my son down for a nap a few minutes ago. Surely he’ll keep it brief because he knows it’s my writing time. So I click open Yahoo Messenger. We spend about 15 minutes typing back and forth, then, as I’m about to sign off…

Call your dad. Call him. Now.
your sister wants you to call him.
My sister?!?!
she’s IMing me. She says she wants you to call him. NOW!
Why is she IMing you instead of me?
just do it!

I look at the clock. It’s 3:20. I need to start writing, but my sister has a knack for predicting when our reclusive father decides to appear in the land of the living. I sigh and call him up.

“Hey, Daddy.”
“Hey, girl! Your sister wants to get together this Saturday.”
“That’s cool. Where you wanna go?”
“I don’t know. Let me talk to her, then call you back.”

Knowing my father, I probably won’t hear from him again until April 2009, so I tell him to hold on, then I open up a chat window to my sister.

Hey, it’s me.
I got daddy on the phone.
ask him what he want me to bring. ^-^

“You want us to bring anything?
“Are you talking to her now?”
“On the computer?!”
“Ain’t that somethin’!”

After bringing my father up to speed on the miracles of the Information Age, we work out a meeting time on Saturday. My father hangs up, and my sister and I finalize things over IM.

Maybe we should invite some other people to come to. What about Nina?
she won’t come
she’s pregnant again
where have you been? That’s old news.
it happened few weeks ago…

In short bursts of text, my sister and I discuss the merits and pitfalls of our family. Until I happen to glance at the clock and—

Oh crap! I gotta go!
I gotta write!
Okay. Call me later . . .

It’s now 4:15. Any minute now, my son’s going to wake up from his nap. Quickly, I pull up my work in progress and start writing furiously, but then the IM window pops back on the screen.

Did you talk to your sister?
Did you talk to your father?
Yes…yes…can’t talk. Gotta write.
Okay. I

I? I what? I wait for him to go on, but the chat window remains hovering over my writing, still and silent. Come on. Finish the sentence. What are you trying to say to me? I love you? I think you need to calm down? What were you about to say?!

At that moment, my son wakes up, crying.

I’ve since banned the IM program during my writing times. It’s just too much of a distraction. If people really want to get a hold of me, they can leave a voice mail. My husband also knows not to call unless it’s an emergency—now he sends an e-mail if he wants me to do something. In making myself unavailable, I’m sending out a message that I’m taking my writing seriously, so they should, too. It’s beginning to work—I’m finally getting productive work done. The only interruptions I get nowadays are from telemarketers, but I ignore those anyway.

Now if there was a way to insure that my son takes two-hour naps every day until he’s eighteen, I’ll be completely fine.

LaShawn M. Wanak is a stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old boy. She has published short stories, essays, and poetry, and is currently working on her first fantasy novel. Visit her at the Café in the Woods.