Saturday, 26 November 2011

Children or Books – or both?

Children or book, children or books… that quote was something that haunted my days at university and after. I WANTED to write and I WANTED children. Why couldn’t I do/have both? At the time I thought I could. And, actually, I can. But some one – Nietzsche*? – had said otherwise.

And it is really difficult. Books – the writing of them – take part of your soul, your emotional energy, the meaning of your life. They suck you dry, maybe not for ever, but certainly during the process of creation.

And children? Well, they take all of that and more. And not just during the process of creation!

I’m lucky enough to have both – wonderful children (although I’d be happier if they studied more, and tidied their rooms) and four novellas published (under the nom de plume Gillian Villiers). I have written more books and hope to revise and improve on them and write still more in the future.

So is it really a choice? No, it’s not. But those words do have a kernel of truth to them, like many memorable phrases (momento mori is one of my favourites, but that’s for another day). I know some people do manage to write before (almost during) and after the birth of a child. But that’s not for me. I want to be totally engaged in the thing that is most important to me.

When my children were young, that was my children. But now they’re not so young, there’s time for me – and my books.

And what particularly interests me at the moment are books for children. Maybe that’s the perfect way to combine my two passions?

* I checked with a good friend from university to see if she could remember who this quote was from, and she also thought it was Nietzsche. However, despite extensive searches on the web, I can’t actually find it. If anyone does know the origin, I’d be delighted to hear. And, in the meantime, here are two other quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche:

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Do whatever you will, but first be such as are able to will.

Pretty good, I think.


  1. I think you can have both - but one has to take priority. Like you Gill, I chose my kids, but then they grow up and fly the nest and writing time flies in - which keeps you busy and stops you worrying about them ALL the time!

  2. Very interesting post, Gill - I too gave my full attention to the children when growing up, but now it's my turn (most of the time)!

    It is a Nietzche quote - will give you it on WS, if you haven't found it by then.

  3. Whoops, I thought I'd already posted a comment but it seems here it is again. This was an interesting blog - and it made me feel lucky that I didn't have to make a choice in my salad days - neither did I even think about making that sort of choice....writer or children. I was a fairly early starter in the mother stakes, a rather late one in the writer stakes ....and the latter sort of followed on from the former once my children had flown the nest. But that said, if I really want to do something then I can usually make it happen, however many curved balls life throws at me ...:)

  4. Yes, it seems the quote is by Nietzsche.
    I first read it in Nassim Taleb's book: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.
    (An excellent book, by the way. I have read it 3 times.)

    Taleb writes: “Nietzsche had the Latin pun aut liberi, aut libri—either children or books, both information that carries through the centuries.”


    Also, 510: