As I was writing my last blog post, I was interrupted by someone who just wanted to have a quick chat and make small talk to break up the morning. She does this on a somewhat regular basis, peering over the cubicle wall and staring at me, waiting for me to recognise her, even though she can see that I’m deep in thought and have my headphones on.
Society commands that we stop in our tracks and respond to the person who is addressing is, which is part of the reason that Jason Fried thinks that offices are so unproductive. Despite being in the middle of a sentence, I had to stop, take my headphones and engage her in her own desires for communication.
It’s not that she’s a bad person, or that she was discussing something boring. In fact, had I not been so deep in thought, I would have gladly talked to her for 15 minutes, as she wanted to talk about the impending birth of my daughter and different cities across the country (knowing that I want to move to Portland): two subjects that I could eagerly discuss for hours. But I found myself quite non-responsive to her conversation, principally because I was just waiting for her to end it so that I could get back to my train of thought, without having lost too much ground. Sadly, that wish was unfounded, and I ended up giving in and humouring her desire for some chit-chat for 15 minutes before returning to my writing.
I believe that creativity happens in seclusion, where your mind is free to wander and just get it out. I often think that our minds are more able than our bodies, and we could do so much more, if only our bodies wouldn’t get in the way. For that reason, I think it’s important to allow people the time to focus on their interests, especially when they’re so clearly engaged in them.
So please don’t interrupt a thinking thinker. Aside from annoying them, you could quite possibly get in the way of someone solving world hunger or global warming. Possibly. More likely, you’ll just cost them a train of thought, and they’ll spend an hour getting themselves back to that phase of creative cerebral output. Either way, your chit-chat can wait.