Every writer knows what it is to write three or four drafts of a text and then to throw them all into the wastebasket. The same thing happened to me once. But when I put a new piece of paper in the typewriter, I began to wonder whether the first version of what I wanted to write, the discarded one, really deserved to be thrown out. When I took it from the wastebasket and straightened it out, it suddenly dawned on me what the text lacked—it lacked the crumpling. As if in a trance, I tore the fresh sheet of paper from the typewriter, crumpled it, and when I had smoothed it out, the wrinkles remained; I had before me a clean piece of paper covered with an unfamiliar form of writing. Perhaps writing which declared impotence, perhaps anger. But what was more, it was beautiful writing. And so it began. First white pages, then black, then pages covered with writing, music, engravings, reproductions. Crumplage can’t be done very well dry. The paper must be properly moistened and it doesn’t bear working with long. The crumpling must be done quickly and sensitively and the results are very difficult to determine in advance for crumplage is always the brother of chance. It can be adjusted very little, because the moist paper tears easily and the work must be completed rapidly. Its significance can be found in oneself.
Another [serendipitous event that marked the making of Zong!] was computer related: Having completed the first draft of one section I attempt to print it; the laser printer for no apparent reason prints the first two or three pages superimposed on each other—crumped, so to speak—so that the page becomes a dense landscape of text. The subsequent pages are, however, printed as they should be. With the beginning of each movement of the second part of the book—Sal, Ventus, Ratio, and Ferrum—the same thing happens. I have never been able to find a reason for it and my printer has not since done that with anything else I have written.