There are many things the late writer Cyril Connolly and I have in common, not least of which is our shared birthday (September 10, in case you need time to save up). Connolly’s was the rapier wit that carved out such epithets as: ” Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.”
It is with another of his often misquoted sayings, however, that I take issue, especially as today is Mother’s Day for it was also Connolly who said: “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than a pram in the hall.” Given that Connolly died in 1974 at the age of 71, it is reasonable to assume that he was referring mainly to women artists and writers as hands-on parenting was yet to become fashionable amongst fathers. In my experience and his vernacular, Connolly was talking utter tosh.
Post motherhood, most creative women I know become even more so. Sure, we no longer have the luxury of endless stretches of unbroken time to dedicate to our work but, then again, who does? Live, as ever, intervenes and what more valuable intervention can there be than a child? In fact, I would hazard that most artistic mothers achieve even more and do so with greater efficiency. We learn to wring every atom of productivity out of the time we have and push boundaries farther than we did pre-motherhood.
After all, if you can heave out the average-sized child and deal with the dollops of maternal guilt ladled out by society you can certainly handle the odd wayward plot or tricky character. I think Connolly put it better when he said: “A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he starts forth, will have condemned himself to second-hand thoughts, and to second-rate friends.” Now that, Cyril, is more like it.