Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Home Alone by Keren David


I am home alone. I can hardly remember the last time this happened. It may have been before my daughter was born, 14 years ago. It certainly feels that way.
I have evicted the family. ‘Just give me three full days,’ I begged, ‘and I can finish this book.’
They went off yesterday, and I could feel my head clear as they left. I had no one to talk to, except my characters. They played up a bit, but without the constant interruptions and distractions that come with normal family life, it was so much easier to listen to the people in my head, to think about their needs, their quirks, their interweaving stories.
It was wonderful to be able to think for more than ten minutes at a time. It was incredible to be still working and thinking at 6pm.
For the next three days I’m borrowing an absent friend’s house to work in during the day, so there will be no telephone (the mobile gets switched off), no neighbourly chats, no internet, no housework. I’ve got nine chapters sketched out, and with uninterrupted silence I think they can be written.
And yet, I would hate to give the impression that my family are nothing but a hindrance, even though I’ve been a grumpy nightmare of a wife and mother for the last few weeks, growling and moaning about deadlines, noise and interruptions.
My children give me constant ideas, lines, drama and help. They tell me about their lives, their friends, their teachers. They squabble and make up, joke and play, laugh and cry. Sometimes I think I could just write down their conversations and I’d have an instant novel. They are instant fact-checkers for anything to do with schools and teens.
My husband tells me his memories of childhood and adolescence. He talks to me about people, about ideas. I’m an intellectual butterfly, flitting from idea to idea, gathering little bits of knowledge about a lot of things. He’s got an incredible store of facts about all sorts of things, which he can retrieve without looking anything up.
Not once has my teenage daughter complained about the embarrassment of her mum writing about a teenage boy’s sex life. My son boasted to the children in his class that his mum had written a book, ‘But it’s too old for us, we’ll have to wait to read it.’
Yesterday The Guardian ran a fascinating feature on writers and their families. Frank Cottrell Boyce, who has seven children, wrote about how his family helps and enhances his writing. ‘It's very powerful to be surrounded by people who love you for something other than your work,’ he wrote. I liked the comment from Julie Myerson: I think a person is actually more creative when they are up against it: the more you have to push, the more you have to work to carve out time and concentration, the better.
Well, this week is my carved-out time. I’d better find out if she's correct.

10 comments:

Jan Markley said...

Have a great few days on your own. Write on!

karen ball said...

The luxury of solitude! I hope it's a very constructive time for you. I suspect there's more than a pinch of truth to the theory that other demands on your time make you up your writing game. After all, you have to really want to do it to squeeze it in alongside all the other tasks.

Elaine AM Smith said...

I love having the family around, I just wish I could turn them off sometimes ;)

Keren David said...

A little update - I have written my three chapters! And it is only 3pm. This is despite discovering a way of accessing the internet in my supposed internet-free safe house. Right..on to fourth chapter..

Debs Riccio said...

Keren, I get all excited when I know I'm going to be Macauley-Culkin-fied, but then I fritter away the time I have by faffing about on FB and blogger and Twitter - then the minute I hear one of them come home, I'm all "oh... wow, where did the time go... I've been Sssoooo busy..." (I have a terrible affliction of fiction!)

Helena Pielichaty said...

Undisturbed writing time is precious - enjoy it, Keren. Not sure I'd use Julie Myerson as an example of getting the writing/parenting balance right though - didn't she throw her son out then write about it?

Keren David said...

Ah well she mainly writes about her family, which I'd never do.

Penny Dolan said...

How wonderful to have this interval of home alone writing time AND to have got so much done as well. Am very impressed.

Saw and liked the the FCB article, although someone did wonder whether Mrs FCB also had time for creative work.

惠宛佳桂 said...

人生有些波折,才能有些成長,所以不論順逆,凡是成長、成功的助緣,都應該心存感激。.................................................

Katherine Langrish said...

Ah, solitude... lucky you for your understanding and supportive family. (Mine is, too, but they are unavoidably underfoot at present!)