Then again, I think that at some point in the creation a book, all writers, and certainly all published writers, need to take time away from the distractions of day-to-day life and do nothing but write. It may be at the start of the process, or in the middle when progress has slowed, or right at the end, when the finish line is in sight and it requires one last concentrated effort to cross the line, but it has to be done. If nothing else, it gives a focus to the work in hand. It can be hard to keep the image of the forest in one's head when you're progressing through it, tree by tree.
Even when I was writing my first book, at a time when I did not have a publisher but did, at least, have an agent who wanted to read it, I can remember taking a week off work in order to finish the draft. I wrote in a rigid kitchen chair at an old table in my bedroom, and I think my back hurt for another week after. I wrote thousands of words every day. I forced myself to stay in that chair and not move until I felt that I really couldn't write any more, until my back was screaming and the words on the computer screen grew fuzzy.
But perhaps that idea of seclusion is merely an extreme example of the regular, low-key seclusion that all writers, whether actual or aspiring, need in order to work. When I'm trying to help people who are struggling to write, overwhelmed by the task that they have set themselves and the other demands on their time - work, husbands, wives, children, friends, dogs - I always tell them to start small. They should snatch ten or fifteen minutes every day, and set an easily attainable goal: 100 words, say, which is not very much at all. They should do this at a time when they can be sure of no other distractions, and I've known people who've started to wake up fifteen minutes earlier in the mornings, before the kids have to be rousted, or before they have to run for the train, and that's their brief period of seclusion. Three days of work in this way will produce about one page of a book, although most people find that the work speeds up as the days go by, and where once they might have produced 100 words, they now produce 150, or 200, or 300.
It helps also to have a particular place in which to work, especially if you have kids, or flatmates, or a demanding spouse. You close the door, or set yourself up at the kitchen table, and you make it clear to them that this is your time, and you have to be left alone. After a while, people come to expect it. Not only does writing become part of your routine, but your writing becomes part of the routine of others.
So seclusion, like most things, is relative, and while absolute seclusion may be ideal - I have one friend who goes to stay in a country house bed and breakfast when he needs to get a lot of writing done, another who runs off to a cottage in the hills, a third who makes use of a retreat house for writers - it's not always possible, or available, or affordable. But every writer has to find his or her own space, both physical and psychological, and make the best use of it. Three weeks, an hour, fifteen minutes: you take what you can get . . .
This week John read
Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man by Christopher Bray
and listened to
Le Noize by Neil Young