Alluvial gold mining
The analogies with writing are clear enough. The writer mines his mind, digging up the contents of memory and imagination, and then sorting through the pile in search of the gold. Writing, like alluvial gold mining, takes place in two major phases. First, there is the collection of the raw materials, as the writer digs up all she can. This can be demanding work; it can be heavy going at times. But once a sizable mass of material is collected, the second phase can begin: the sorting and refining phase that we call editing. Here, the gold is separated from the mullock.
The Water Bore
Again, the analogies with writing are clear. The underground source of material – memory, imagination, the unconscious – is almost infinite. As Malouf once observed, the first twenty years of our lives provide us with sufficient material to fill three lifetimes of writing. We have lots to write about. Once we get underway, once we tap that huge reservoir, once we have flow, the writing simply emerges. The trick is to establish flow each time we put pen to paper, or set our minds and fingers working on the keyboard of our computers.
I keep a WRITING AGENDA, and keep adding to it, as possible topics and projects slip into my mind. My WRITING AGENDA provides an endless supply of things to write about. And each piece we write throws up more items for our Writing Agenda, so that the growth is exponential.
Sample from my Writing Agenda
- The Boy Scout camps I attended: left handed hammers and tartan paint
- The hike to Arthurs Creek with Tom
- The fog in Melbourne – coming home from Scouts
- Moments of embarrassment: somersaults; farting in cubs
- Working at Royal Park
- Geology classes at Taylors, 1959
- Dutch classes at Taylors, 1960
- Uncle Ken’s house
- Aunty Iris’ house
- Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Neighbours and Friends of the family
- Swimming with the Kippings
Springs and Alluvial Gold
Our writing emerges out of the swirling currents of thought and feeling and intention, and takes form on the page or screen. This is Klauser’s Ariel in operation. Out of the Right Brain comes a seemingly endless stream of images, ideas, memories, speculations, all feeling-laden and motive driven … once we have tapped the stream and got them down on paper, we can then bring the Left Brain into operation. We bring our critical intelligence to bear. We can “interrogate” our own text: Does this make sense? Is it well ordered? Are our conclusions supported by evidence? Do our characters seem real?
Klauser argues for “writing on both sides of the brain” – for clearly recognising when we are in imaginative mode, and when we are in editing mode. She presents writing as a product of both sides of the brain working in cahoots. First Right, then Left, the Right and so on…