the secret compartment

“You become a different person, you are no longer an ordinary fellow who walks around and looks after his children and eats meals and does silly things, you go into a completely different world. I personally draw all the curtains in the room, so that I don’t see out the window and put on a little light which shines on my board. Everything else in your life disappears and you look at your bit of paper and get completely lost in what you’re doing. You do become another person for a moment. Time disappears completely. You may start at nine in the morning and the next time you look at your watch, when you’re getting hungry, it can be lunchtime. And you’ve absolutely no idea that three or four hours have gone by. So when you meet a musician or a writer, you shouldn’t be surprised that they look exactly like ordinary people, because in that part of their lives they are … All the best artists that I’ve known, like Hemingway and Steinbeck and EB White and Thurber, behave very normally in their private lives … They are ordinary people who have a secret compartment somewhere in their brain which they can switch on when they become quite alone and go to work.”

— Roald Dahl, quoted in Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, HarperPress, London, 2010, p.521.

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