The information super-savannah

Wordcount = 86,150

Typing is not writing in the same way that a bottle of tequila is not a jug of margaritas. Discuss.

Anyone who is interested in writing something is at some point going to have to type it (anyone who has tried to read a grocery list scrawled on the back of an envelope by anyone under 40 will see that handwriting has become sadly extinct in my generation, its evolutionary advantage lost in the rapid migration of homo sapiens from parchment forests to the Information Super-Savannah).

The more you want to write, the more you will have to type, and the ratio is exponential. A simple email to a colleague can usually be banged off in a single, barely-considered pass, whereas any letter you have to write to your car insurance company will require at least three fully-edited drafts to construct the precise series of logical statements which best explain the entirely innocent physical circumstances which lead you to shunt a Mr Whippy van into a hearse.

A novel is at the far end of the continuum. Let’s not even go into it: trust me, there’s a lot of typing.

None of it, not one keystroke, constitutes writing.

So what, smart arse, is writing?

I could waste a great deal of your time here twatting on about the imaginative leap, the technical development of characters and narrative arcs, the weaving of life experiences, philosophical questions, observations and pure fantasy into a resonant, truthful experience for a reader – an act, if you will, of carefully-crafted telepathy – but I don’t need to, because instead I’m going to say that it is building a cat-house.

My editorial consultant, for reasons which don’t need elaborating here, has to be isolated from physical contact with the other neighbourhood editorial consultants for three months. This moratorium was declared three weeks ago, during which time my editorial consultant has been locked inside the house with me as I attempt to complete my novel and he explores his passionate belief that ancient treasure of great and wondrous dimension has been hidden just behind the fabric of my couch.

When, early last week, it became clear that the two projects would not be able to co-exist, I decided to build an enclosure outside the house which he could access through his editorial consultant-flap, so to ameliorate his cabin fever and allow my wordcount to continue its spasmodic climb towards wherever it appears to be headed.

The plan was that I would build a wooden frame, four metres by two metres by two metres, attach mesh to it, link the whole thing somehow to the editorial consultant-flap, and go back to work. This would take, according to the plan, forty-eight hours.

That was last Wednesday evening. Today is Tuesday. How long did the job take?


I went to Bunnings and bought some wood. I then tried to hammer it all together. I went back to Bunnings. Armed with a hammer and some nails, I continued. I hammered the wrong bit to the wrong bit, and then found that I’d hammered them together wrongly anyway. I then hammered my thumb, and went inside for a while.

When I came back out, I had forgotten about the two wrong bits and hammered them to a third bit, which turned out also to be wrong. I then remembered about the first two wrong bits, and went back to Bunnings to ask someone to draw me a map. While there, I also bought all the mesh and carefully inserted my credit card in a place where I didn’t know where it was.

At home, I discovered almost simultaneously that I didn’t have enough mesh or a credit card. Bunnings told me they hadn’t seen my credit card and mildly admonished me for not looking after it very well. I told them a four year-old could lose a credit card, and they said they were forced to agree.

I cancelled the card and used up all my remaining cash buying a saw, because it looked nice in the shop. I went back to the hammering, which I thought I’d started showing improvement with.

Bunnings called to tell me that a four year-old had found my credit card.

This continued for six days. Each morning I would stride scowling into the garden and throw myself with a wild yawp onto a random length of timber or roll of plastic mesh, hitting, cutting, tearing and then getting up and going to Bunnings for a replacement.

It occurred to me around Saturday that I might be missing a step. What I was doing was a lot of hammering, but very little building. So I stopped, sat on the ground before my wretched, deformed, semi-dismembered creation, and thought. I thought about everything I needed to do to finish the job, in what order they should happen, what mistakes I needed to erase or replace and above all I thought about what the thing should actually look like when complete.

I realised, among other things, that it needed a door.

To drag this hoary analogy home, I’ve been dong a lot of typing recently, and that has been very profitable, but before I go hammering the wrong character to the wrong idea, I need to stop and see if I’ve forgotten to put a door in. There is now only the really big finale left to write in order to have a rough first draft, so careful thought is absolutely vital before going any further.

My consultant moved into his new offices this afternoon and expressed his appreciation by defecating ceremonially in one corner.


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