The Enemy of Art?

“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall” – Cyril Connolly.

“Ash is sitting on the potty doing a pencil drawing while reciting loudly and accurately from Fortunately the Milk. I have to go away and hide and write for two weeks. I am going to miss this little wood-elf more than I can say.” Neil Gaiman, twitter, this week.

As a writer who had a baby (I’m female-ish, non-binary) I had to figure out how the writing was going to fit around the child. As a relatively poor person I had to take care of the child, the needs of the child. I could not have ever afforded to take a couple of weeks off for writing while someone else took care of my small child. I regret nothing. I would not have done differently if I’d had the money.

What I hate, passionately, is this idea that to be a good creator you have to be cut off from life in this way. I hate it just as much as I hate it when Tory politicians speak with pride about having never changed a nappy. I hate the way we devalue parenthood, and I really hate the way we devalue fatherhood.

I hate the way in which Neil Gaiman has presented this like the only way he can possibly write is by going away for two weeks. It perpetuates the idea that serious work has to happen outside the domestic sphere and that for people (usually men) who are important, going away to do the important things is just what you have to do. This is bullshit.

It isn’t easy being a parent and anything else at the same time. Most of us who have children do that, though. We have jobs, and other responsibilities, and we figure it out as best we can and do what we can, and take pride in the work and the parenting. It isn’t easy finding the focus and energy to work on creative projects when raising a small child. Many of us manage, all the same. Many of us do not experience that managing as some kind of heroic sacrifice.

I have every sympathy with anyone whose economic situation impacts on their scope for parenting – that’s a very different thing. I have every sympathy for parents whose work involves travel, and for the challenges and juggling involved. I’m frankly tired of the affluent men who think that raising their small children is someone else’s job.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “The Enemy of Art?

  • Michael

    So true! Good writing for me happens around life. When it’s nudged in to fit the schedule, it keeps a sense of urgency to the writing time that really helps get the writing done. Just going on a vacation to write, it does sound idyllic because hey, no more responsibilities, but that’s what it really is – a vacation.

  • Bogatyr

    Ummm, I wonder whether you are being fair here.

    Firstly, to the best of my knowledge, Gaiman didn’t start life particularly wealthy. To the extent that he has money, he’s earned it through his writing. His ideas, and his skill in expressing them, have persuaded lots of people to give him money. This is admirable, isn’t it? Isn’t that something you would like yourself, as an author?

    Second; at least consider that as a successful author, he has contracts and deadlines. He’s not writing as a hobby or a sideline; he has publishers who need manuscripts delivered by fixed dates. This is how he feeds his family. Writing is not his hobby. If he needs two undisturbed weeks, it could be because of a looming deadline. Having to balance business and family life is quite common. It’s not a vacation.

    Third: quite surprised at your attitude to his wife, who you don’t even bother to mention. Perhaps you think she’s a housewife? In fact, Amanda Palmer is a successful artist in her own right. Consider it possible, at least, that Gaiman picks up domestic duties while Palmer is on tour…

    Just some thoughts

    • Nimue Brown

      I know perfectly well who Amanda Palmer is, I didn’t mention her because this is a post about attitudes to fatherhood. If there is any author who might be in a position to negotiate his worklife so that he can do whatever parenting he wants, it would be Neil Gaiman. As one of the most successful authors out there, if he really wanted to not be away from his child for two weeks, I think he’d have options many people do not have.

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