but it is funnily written. From The Guardian book blog:
I’ve always been unsure about Virginia Woolf‘s maxim, that women need only money and a room of their own to write fiction. It’s a bit like “everyone has a novel in them” – true in essence, but missing a massive subclause about redrafting, workshops, crushing self-doubt, The Writers & Artists’ Yearbook, bookshop toilets, an agent and some luck. Even then, writing doesn’t mean writing well.
The Hosking Houses Trust, however, is taking Woolf at her word. A registered writers’ charity, they’re offering one pre-contracted female author rent-free accommodation in leafy Clifford Chambers. The bursary includes £750 a month and use of a rowboat, in hopes the freedom and tranquility will produce a masterpiece. But the proposals, says founder Sarah Hosking, aren’t looking good.
“There is a lot of self-delusion,” she tells me. “Little-girl whimpering and feeble CVs avoiding dates. A bad letter says they’re not meant by fate to be writers.” A quick Google of the Trust’s alumni reveals mostly unpublished novels and one “sorry history” of the menopause. It could be that fated writers aren’t meant for rural Warwickshire.
Here’s the thing: comfort breeds complacency; rural bliss breeds The Lost Symbol. In Dan Brown‘s case, his enormous beach house has only worsened an already deep malaise: Robert Langdon jolted upright in his soft leather seat, startling out of the semiconscious daydream. He was sitting all alone in the enormous cabin of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet as it bounced its way through turbulence. In the background, the dual Pratt & Whitney engines hummed evenly (chapter 1, page 1).
Real writers need frustration. They need embarrassment. They need cold, uncomfortable rooms, miles from a mobile signal. There should be an infestation of at least one parasite, a backlog of warnings from the Student Loans Company and just enough coffee for what Don DeLillo calls “an occasional revelation”.
Woolf wrote standing up at her desk. So did Hemingway, Dickens, Philip Roth. John Fante starved through Wait Until Spring, Bandini. Orwell coughed blood in the coldest winter on record to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle,” he wrote, “like a long bout of some painful illness.”
And it’s not just the realists. PG Wodehouse had bending exercises and seven-day weeks from the age of five (“before that, I just loafed”). Marina Lewycka, on the other hand, wrote A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian between pots of tea and “little snoozes” – and what do you know: no fewer than five literary clichés in the first paragraph alone.
Personally, I like to hold “hungry” creative writing seminars through lunch, far from a vending machine, at the cold end of campus with the heating down. You can almost see Dan Brown leaving and David Foster Wallace taking his place. “I want to smell the breath of a stranger as he speaks my name,” wrote one student this week. They’re no more prolific, but they’re gutsier. Discomfort cures overwriting.
A basement flat in Lewisham will do. Population half a million, staggering distance from three massive libraries and choked portal to the greatest city on Earth. Clifford Chambers has a population of 418. Notable landmarks: Stratford Shire Horse Centre, now defunct. Revelations: don’t hold your breath.