So far in this series of Top Nine Writer’s Rules, great and good authors have offered advice on matters which are fairly straightforward: starting a book, or how to get the inspiration to pick up the pen in the first place.
That all changes this week. There seems little agreement as to the precise effect of the matrimony upon authors. Most, however, seem to agree that writing and marriage do not go together like a horse and carriage.
It’s been difficult to narrow down contributors to this vexed and much-discussed topic – Cyril Connolly narrowly failed to make the cut, as did Martin Amis – but here are the top nine rules.
The leading contender for the unwritten tenth rule would appear to be ‘Don’t’. But that decision, as ever, is yours…
1. PHILIP LARKIN
‘I seem entirely lacking in that desire to impose oneself that is such a feature of masculine behaviour: by marriage, by “sexual intercourse”. Bothering people. Inflicting oneself on people. I’m devoid of all that, & it leaves a sort of central motiveless vacuum.’
2. WENDY COPE
‘The reason why modern poetry is difficult is so the poet’s wife can’t understand it.’
3. GK CHESTERTON
‘I have a wife, a piece of string, a pencil and a knife; what more can a man want on a honeymoon?’
4. JANE SMILEY
‘Even if my marriage is falling apart and my children are unhappy and my spouse is unhappy, there is still a part of me that says, “God! This is fascinating!”’
5. PATRICK WHITE
‘I believe that all those painters and writers who leave their wives have an idea at the back of their minds that their painting or writing will be the better for it, whereas they only go from bad to worse.’
6. BERYL BAINBRIDGE
‘Marriage is very difficult if you’re a woman and a writer. No wonder Virginia Woolf committed suicide.’
‘I think of writing simply in terms of pleasure. It’s the most important thing in my life, making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them because I am the person who makes these things.’
8. GEORGE STEINER
‘The thinker inhabits fictions of purity, of reasoned propositions as sharp as white light. Marriage is about roughage, bills, garbage disposal, and noise. There is something vulgar, almost absurd, in the notion of a Mrs Plato or a Mme. Descartes, or of Wittgenstein on a honeymoon.’
9. RUSSELL HOBAN
‘Without knowing it I wanted to get into adult fiction, to use all of myself and my experience. Only after my wife and I separated did I feel free.’