Writer Vs Children: where to write?


The sun has arrived, sort of, on the streets of south west London and that means one thing: the arrival of the tiny people, or ch-ii-l-deeer-ren. I’m not sure if they hibernate in the winter or something, but Easter always seems to mark their awakening and subsequent release into the world. Every coffee shop, bookshop and, to the dismay of many a hardened drinker, pub, is suddenly teeming with them.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I hate children, I used to be one, of course. And last week I met my friend’s new baby. It was small and baby-like which I took, in my limited experience of such things, as a good sign. She had fingers and a head, all the things you’d expect from a human. Unfortunately however, being recently unemployed, or as I like to call it, ‘freelance’, most of these seasonal baby-haunts also happen to be where I like to write.

All four of my local libraries host Mother and Baby groups during the day. In my local coffee shop (of a brand I’m too much of an Emergent Service Worker to admit visiting), there are often more little’uns than big’uns, too. It’s micro chaos. When I’m weeping over the Story That Will Not Be Written, I want to look forlorn and tortured in peace. My artistic misery looses it’s cool when set to a backing track of Wind the Bobbin Up. So where’s a girl supposed to write?

D.H Lawrence preferred to write under a tree, but, where I live at least, it’s a bit dog poo-ey for that. Virginia Woolf, of course, wrote that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own’ to write, but today’s London writer would be lucky to have just one of those. Everyone from Herman Melville to George Eliot chose the reading room of the British Library and I’ve considered it, but it requires so much paperwork. I’ve heard trains are a popular place to write and my budget could just about stretch to a day on the Circle Line, but at this time of year it’s packed to the handlebars with kids on school trips.

Writing at home can prove tricky too. As I type this, the small person upstairs is tooting out something similar to the hippo dance from Fantasia (hello mother, hello father...) on the clarinet. The urge to fashion a tutu out of old pillow cases and pirouette across the living room is making it somewhat difficult to concentrate.

However, psychologists say that for roles to be internalised, they need to be observed in public. That means that if I don’t drag myself to a coffee shop and sit brooding over a chai latte, I’ll never feel like a writer. So I’ll ride out the cute, fluffy-hatted plague, and come the rain and the winter that coffee shop will be all mine.