Writing is a peculiar balancing act between freedom and discipline. Writers are free to spend their days doing whatever they like; but if they don't write, then they are not writers. They are on their own and so vulnerable to every distraction, whether that's drink or the Antiques Roadshow. Jonathan Franzen has said that "it is doubtful that anyone with an internet connection in his workplace is writing good fiction". Family is, of course, the most potent distraction, and probably the only distraction that makes you feel virtuous when you surrender to it.
There's a belief that to do great work you need tranquility and control, that the pram is cluttering up the hallway; life needs to be neat and tidy. This isn't the case. Tranquility and control provide the best conditions for completing the work you imagined. But surely the real trick is to produce the work that you never imagined. The great creative moments in our history are almost all stories of distraction and daydreaming – Archimedes in the bath, Einstein dreaming of riding a sunbeam – of alert minds open to the grace of chaos.
Monday, August 02, 2010
In The Guardian, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce asks whether 'the pram in the hallway' really is the enemy of good art.