Pram Power

“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”
-Cyril Connolly

I encountered this grim quote on a writing blog, Writer Unboxed, where Meg Rosoff wrote a wonderful response to it.  Nothing more probably needs to be said.

But I’m going to write my own response anyway, because the Connolly quote has been bothering me, gnawing at the part of my brain where I attempt to jail the ideas I do not want to accept but which may have some truth in them.  As an author who is also the mother of a young child, the idea that the “pram in the hall” is the “enemy of good art” is an idea I’d like to gainsay.  But can I?

The Pram as Enemy

Okay, so let’s be real.  Parenting is hard.  It takes tons of time.  Writing is also hard.  It takes tons of time.  Often, having a son means that when I do sit down to write, it goes like this:

Write a sentence. Write another sentence. Write a third sentence.  Almost write a paragraph — 

“Did you want to play in the back yard?”

Of course I want to play in the back yard.  He’s only going to be three for a little while longer, and I’m trying to savor it.  So I put down the manuscript and go outside, and when I come back, my mind has shifted.  I’m not in the same place.  I try to sit down and pick up that paragraph right where I left off, but it doesn’t always happen. I usually make myself write anyway, but the result isn’t always as good as it would have been if I’d been able to keep going when I was totally in the moment.


The Pram as Friend

I have never been so productive as I have been in the almost four years since my son’s birth.  Never have I had the daily stamina to shake off the “Maybe one day I mights” and launch myself into the world of “Today, I will.”  I had tons of time, in the years before I was a mom and a teacher.  Tons.  I didn’t do nearly enough with it.  I was a dreamer for a long time before I became a doer.

I don’t think it’s the magic of motherhood that flipped the switch for me, either.  I don’t think that prams have to be literal, here.  Everyone has their pram in the hall, man.  A sick family member is a pram.  A partner is a pram.  A full-time job is a pram.  A neighbor in need, a beloved pet, a degree to pursue – anything that demands dedicated time and attention.

Productivity, at least for me, seems to be the direct result of having no time to spare.  Something deep in my psyche is stirred to action by this lack.  For just as the prams in my hall have straitened me, they’ve also blessed me with relentlessness and grit that I never used to possess.  I can’t understand this.  I’m just grateful for it.


Connolly has a point.  I might be a more artful writer if I were able to focus for longer periods without needing to manage the pram.

But it doesn’t matter, because if that pram weren’t there, I might not be writing at all.



  1. Love you for this. Especially for pointing out there are a lot of different kinds of prams.

  2. Well said, friend. I’m enjoying mulling this over.

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