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May 28, 2016

I had an idea for an opening line for a new novel.

As I tried to follow it with other lines, I kept changing what I’d written, what I wrote as I wrote it – a constant revising of what I had put outside my head. As I’d done many times in the past, I queried the merits of being able to so easily alter a draft in process, and questioned whether I oughtn’t write with a biro on paper instead. It might limit this incessant reviewing and allow my mind to roam freer. But maybe I just need to learn to type properly.

Amidst the musings, it occurred to me that I could retrace the changes I’d made to a few lines as I went along. So I tapped back the Undo button repeatedly until I got back to the start, copying each version as I went. (Something I could not do with a paper version!)

Why? 

Because I can, and because I thought it might be illuminating for someone who thinks that the words simply pop out in the right order for a writer. As though it is a conversation which is rich and intense and enthusiastic – the speakers not considering their words in paragraphs before they are spoken – rarely even weighing wording or words. It is not that way for this writer at least. This is how it is:

INSPIRATION LINES (what popped into my head)

‘This place – all this place – it remembers. It remembers where it came from. It remembers.’

PERSPIRATION LINES (what I wrote after I’d written the initial lines)

a- _______________

b- It remembers like the faint smell of a sweating person

c- It remembers like the faint smell of someone sweating

d- Like the faint smell of someone sweating

e- Like the faint smell of someone sweating as they work in the forest,

f- Like the faint smell of a worker sweating as they work in the forest,

g- Like the faint smell of a worker sweating in the forest,

h- Like the faint smell of a worker sweating in the forest, people and animals leave their trace

i- Like the faint smell of a worker sweating in the forest, people and animals leave a trace

j- Like the faint smell of a worker sweating in the forest, people leave a trace

k- Like the faint smell of a worker sweating in the forest, people leave a trace behind. Animals and birds too.

l- It’s the faint whiff of a worker sweating in the forest and the shallow, impermanent marking of the goanna’s tail across leaves. Nothing lasts unchanging, but this place remembers.

m- It’s the faint whiff of a worker sweating in the forest and the shallow marking of a goanna’s tail across leaves. Nothing remains unchanged, but this place remembers.

PUBLICATION LINES (or where it sits at the moment)

This place – all this place – it remembers. It remembers where it came from. It remembers what happened inside it and then what moved across it. And who. It’s the faint whiff of a worker sweating in the forest and the shallow, impermanent marking of the goanna’s tail across leaves. Nothing lasts unchanging, but this place remembers.

So there you are – another peek into my writing process. Some days, this is as good as it gets.