On one hand, having children inspires art. The euphoria and joy (and suffering and torment) associated with conceiving, bearing, and then raising children are certainly intense enough to inspire outstanding works. Surely one’s son or daughter serve as the perfect muse for artistic expressions.
But in this article by Anne Bauer, the author cites one writer attributing her success to her decision not to have children:
When (again) an audience member, clearly an undergrad, rose to ask this glamorous writer to what she attributed her success, the woman paused, then said that she had worked very, very hard and she’d had some good training, but she thought in looking back it was her decision never to have children that had allowed her to become a true artist. If you have kids, she explained to the group of desperate nubile writers, you have to choose between them and your writing. Keep it pure. Don’t let yourself be distracted by a baby’s cry.
The writer points out that this is probably untrue, and that rather, it’s all about her connections:
I was dumbfounded. I wanted to leap to my feet and shout. “Hello? Alice Munro! Doris Lessing! Joan Didion!” Of course, there are thousands of other extraordinary writers who managed to produce art despite motherhood. But the essential point was that, the quality of her book notwithstanding, this author’s chief advantage had nothing to do with her reproductive decisions. It was about connections. Straight up. She’d had them since birth.
What is interesting, is the suggestion that art is kept most pure when one can’t get “distracted by a baby’s cry’. I’m sure this was just a throwaway line, and that the writer who spoke these words would have lots of qualifications. But I am curious to know what she means. Does this statement only apply to female artists? Is there some yearning and freedom in the mind of the childless that makes one able to do art? While the fulfillment of loving another being as you do your child might leave less space for love of creating?
Still, the Bauer’s main point is that connections and cash are key!