Michael Holroyd: ‘Escaping from myself has been my aim as a writer’

The biographer on writing in bed, the enviable freedom of novelists and the bravery of Bloomsbury’s gay artists

For some 50 years or more I believed that a quick beginning of the next day’s work was essential. To make sure of this advantage I would write a paragraph the previous night and place it carefully next to my bed. When I got up next morning, there it was, still on the floor loyally waiting for me. Some special nights, when waking from a dream, I would see it as chance to make some subtle and necessary improvements to my original bedside text, turning drama into mysterious comedy. The reason was that I often woke from my dreams laughing – which was rather alarming for anyone near me.

Everything is slower now and my excuse is that I am less young – which is to say in my early 80s, so ...