THANKYOU, HELEN

My new book is my old book. I began in 2008 – yes, that long ago – and it was only last year that I finished it. That was after re-writing and re-writing and re-writing. A few knock-backs from publishers. Work with an editor. More re-writing. And then more. Mid-2016, my agent contacted me with the wonderful, amazing, longed-for news that it had found a publisher. There was a golden moment or two, and then a report from another editor. More re-writing.

Now, I’m in the last phase before the next phase. I send off the manuscript at the end of the month. There will be a little break and then – yes, more work. And more work until it is as good as we (the editors and I) can make it. And then at some point we will call a halt. It will be as done as it can be. The publishing company will do all the things they do – cover art, blurb, author biography and picture. There will be a release date. I might have a launch. I will be exhausted.

And don’t imagine that I am complaining. This is the work that I love. But Helen Garner said it very well, better than I could, in her collection of essays, Everywhere I Look:

Every day I work on the edit of my book. I slog away, shifting chunks of material and moving them back, eating my salad in a daze, wondering if the linking passages I’ve written are leading me up the garden path, or are sentimental, or violate some unarticulated moral and technical code I’ve signed up to and feel trapped in or obliged to. The sheer bloody labour of writing. No one but another writer understands it – the heaving about of great boulders into a stable arrangement so that you can bound up them and plant your little flag at the very top.

 

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