Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Every year, there is a different day that becomes my busy day, the day that I barely pause for breath until I crash into bed at night. Today I woke early and laid there worrying about all the things to be done. Taking myself to task, I leapt out of bed to get on with the day and I haven’t stopped till now. Tuesdays will be interesting from this point onwards. It doesn’t help that it has been raining, albeit lightly in a kind of Irish drizzle, for most of the last eighteen hours and the headlines on the ABC website are screaming “SE Queensland warned to brace for wild weather.” Fortunately I took the time to actually read the article and the forecasters are suggesting that the wild weather will be confined to the coast. There are some advantages to living 50 kilometres or so away from the ocean.

I wondered today if Peter Carey or Ian McEwen or Dorothy Dunnett had to pause in their writing with the thunder of small feet down the hallway and the cry “me go loo.” Do they do laundry and grocery shopping, chase down tradespeople, read books to children, make birthday cakes? Do you have to be a successful writer to get someone else to do these things? Of course you have to be successful at something to get someone else to attend to the messy necessities of life. And yet I like to hold onto the idea that the messiness and demands of everyday life are the ground out of which good writing grows; the fertilisation for imagination; the impetus for thinking of things outside the mundane.

Part of my current whirl is trying to clear old projects out of the way to make room for exciting new ventures. So it is a bit like housekeeping – chasing down those dust bunnies, spiders and pile of paper that loiter in corners (at least in the corners of my house) – to open up space for new things and new ideas. And if the house arrives this week, that would be a wonderful start.

1 comment:

Vivi said...

I think any person who can write, in all seriousness, "And if the house arrives this week,...." is due some distraction from the higher art of their calling. That's not mundane, even if it is about mundane things.

I don't know if Dunnett had childcare while she wrote -- she did have small children when she started. I know she would take the children with her when she travelled, and she travelled fairly extensively to the locations that she wrote about -- all over Scotland and France must have been easy, but she went to Russia, Malta and Turkey as well for the Lymond Chronicles. She told a story about being caught alone, on foot, in a terrible storm (somewhere remote, like maybe in the Russian countryside?) with two small children.

She worked from 10 at night until about 5 in the morning, every night. Sleep, then publicity and letter-writing in the afternoon, and almost always a dinner party in the evening. (She and her husband were well-known socialites in Scottish intellectual society, apparently.) At least, that was her schedule during the Niccolo books, when she was in her 50's and 60's. Enviable life.