I need quiet time alone to work. No music, no people in and out of my writing room, just me and the words and images in my head. I sense this makes me kind of strange. My neighbor Mr. X is also creative. I like X. He’s a nice guy. He writes, he plays guitar, he has a band. When the band plug in their electric guitars and turn up their microphones to practice in his basement, I can hear them in my writing room at the front of the house. I know the set list and the words to every song.
Listening to a band practice is not like going to a concert in the park. A band rehearses the same song or the same difficult part in a song over and over. Like writing, it takes practice to get it right. Unfortunately, the other day, the band shattered my concentration right in the middle of a big rewrite due that day. Usually the band doesn’t start playing until after I’ve finished writing, so I was confident I’d get my work done. But they started a couple of hours early. And I barely got my work finished. It was the first time, in writing ten published books and countless other material, that my concentration was broken so totally.
Band practice stressed me out. A lot.
When I moved from my house into a condo, I did so knowing it was a small community of mostly retired older folk. That suited me fine. I enjoy the quiet even when I’m not writing. Like most writers, I read all the time, and I meditate daily, too. When I retired from teaching to focus on writing a year after we moved into this rural paradise, I looked forward to enjoying a quiet retirement.
I bet X also looked forward to enjoying his retirement. Sadly, our two pictures of the perfect retirement are out of sync. X likes to stay up late building things with hammers and nails, and he plays in a rock ‘n roll band. My husband has not retired yet, so we rise early. We did discuss the late-night hammering with X, who said he was finishing his basement but he’d stop hammering by our bedtime. Mostly, he has stuck to his word. Mostly, not completely. But hey, what are a few nights of lost sleep between good neighbors, right?
And wanting to be good neighbors, when X asked if his band practice bothered us, we said the same thing: as long as they stopped playing at a reasonable hour for a working man and his writing wife. X said to let him know if it ever became a problem. I knew I had to tell him that with the morning start time, band practice was turning into a really big problem. And maybe it doesn’t help that I’m not sleeping all that well. A couple of weeks ago, I woke at midnight terrified, hearing extremely loud discordant noises, thinking the house was falling down, or there was a tornado touching down, only to figure out, finally, that X was inexplicably throwing great loads of lumber around his basement, letting it crash to the floor.
I waited a day after band practice, because I was so stressed that first day I wasn’t sure I could be nice about it. Except the next day, X’s house was closed up tight and I didn’t see or hear a hint of him at all. The next morning, I sent him an email message. It’s really awkward to tell someone they are annoying you, and you wish they would shut up and quit throwing lumber at midnight. Also could their band perhaps practice without the amps turned way up? I took the easy out with the email, I know. Not that I have heard anything in reply. In fact, it has been eerily silent next door. (Did I say we share a roof? And the wall our bed is up against?) Almost a week later, having searched the internet for the best noise cancelling headphones available, I still feel bad about complaining.
I also resent having to deal with this. I don’t like headphones. Not even the kind that cost $300. Maybe especially not the kind that cost $300. I resent feeling as if I have to describe my daily activities, and beg X for quiet so I can get on with my writing schedule and sleep time. I want to be fair, but I’m stuck between a hammer and a hard place, hoping for a resolution we can both live with. Maybe he can find a way to still rock and hammer, but quieter. Like maybe his next project can be building a soundproof room.