Monday, May 05, 2008


"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamouring to become visible."

~ Vladimir Nabakov

Somebody posted this over on the Zoetrope discussion board and it perfectly sums up how I have been feeling about writing this novel. I am no longer frustrated by the days that I can't write very many words, because my brain - conscious and sub-conscious - is ticking over things and assembling things that will come out when they are good and ready.

It's not new to say that writers often feel that their books are already written; that they just have to reach up into the ether and pull the words down. This belittles the work that goes into writing a novel of course, but I do agree with the essence of it. Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins once said, when asked why his songs sound so familiar, that it is because they have always been there, like the sea and the stars. Which is a little sick-making, but it taps into the same idea.

After a great initial burst of writing my nove at the end of last year - 10,000 words - I had an enforced break over the summer and couldn't come back to it until I took up my current position as writer-in-residence. I picked it up expecting it to be gold, and was sorely disappointed. I have since binned what I wrote. Quite simply, it was too soon for me to start writing it. The words weren't clamouring at all, they were being forcibly squeezed out in a shitty first draft. I then went through a period of a few weeks where I worked on everything else I could think of except this novel. But in that time, it was quietly assembling itself, like an army gathering troops. I am still not writing at a cracking pace, but I feel as though I am writing just enough, while in the background, the novel is quietly making itself, and is revealing itself to me as and when it needs to. Not without some sweat on my part, I hastily add. I'm not an airy-fairy "oh, the novel was a gift from the spirits" kind of gal, but I have begun to trust my unconscious a lot more than I ever have.

So when I sit down and look at that blank page, I can now trust that those words are just waiting there, and they will come. It makes the whole writing experience a lot more enjoyable than it did when I was forcing it out.


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I'm trying to write my first novel and because I'm a perfectionist I'm trying to write and edit at the same time. I need to just write and let the unconscious surprise me.
Good luck in your second novel.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachael - loved this post, near the end of my novel now - Your book with Butterflies and Nabakov's obsession with butterflies... will try and find your book in Sydney