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.