Publication Details

Cosgrove, S. "Drafting, revision and an author’s duty of care––my novel ‘Housework of Desire’ and the near-destruction of a thirty-year friendship." The Scholarship of Creative Writing Practice: Beyond Craft, Pedagogy, and the Academy. Ed.M. Moore & S. Meekings. London: Bloomsbury, 2024, 103-116.


In a speech at the Art Gallery of NSW, Australian writer Charlotte Wood spoke about the process of drafting her award-winning novel The Natural Way of Things. She stated:

To free myself from the sometimes-paralysing fear of uncertainty, I’ve learned a few mental tricks. One of these is to conceive of my story in progress as a kind of performance that I am only there to watch take place, rather than to control. And in my mind’s eye, the unfolding performance of my novel has always taken place in the hushed dark of a richly textured circus tent… (2018).

Inspired by Wood, when I sat down to write my latest novel-in-progress ‘The Housework of Desire’, I imagined the novel taking place on-stage; over a two-week period, I produced 40,000 words. However, there was cost––when a dear friend and critic read the draft, she was appalled by how much of her lived experience had made it onto the page. As I re-examined the work, I could only agree: even though it had been unintentional, and my friend was unidentifiable, confidential stories she had shared with me had clearly made it into the novel.

This idea of the subconscious at work or the unconscious influence is a common theme in discussions about the writing process. As novelist Kathryn Harrison states: ‘writing is a process that demands cerebral effort, but it’s also one informed by the unconscious. My work is directed by the needs of my unconscious’. Delillo describes it as a ‘zone’ that he aspires towards – ‘there’s a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger. The best moments involve a loss of control. It’s a kind of rapture…’

This chapter examines ideas of the unconscious and process, arguing that authors have a duty of care when deciding what material to include (and how to represent it) but timing and redrafting can prove critical in allowing the freedom and unknowingness of the creative process.