The Writer’s Code

Sometimes we can’t see the woods for the bluebells.

I always dread software updates. I expect things to go wrong. Today was a doosie. The iPad update had all kinds of nifty improvements that I neither wanted nor needed. It doesn’t need to interface better with any other device, or do any of the other spectacularly irrelevant things that I’m told I’m missing out on. But, fearing the worst, I click and button and then go for a long walk with Anne and the neighbour’s dogs.

On returning, the Pad (we’re on informal terms) asks for my Apple ID. Awkward. I know my National Insurance number and even my Driving Licence number, but anything more recent than the 1980s tends to take a while to sink in. 

No problem though because I can switch on the computer upstairs in the attic (which is where attics usually are). This is where the magic happens, if by magic we mean me negotiating with my novel to come together the way it’s been plotted. Needless to say, that’s not exactly the case.

Anyway, I find the Apple ID and realise that I have two. Back downstairs I go, check which one is required and then back up I go because I know not to write down a password, not even for a journey downstairs. 

ID entered and a new screen greets me. There is now a two stage verification to protect my account and would I prefer a text or a call to my mobile phone, and what’s the number. The two stage question is easy in the first part and a challenge in the second. I know it starts with 07 because they all do. (20 years with BT and that’s what I learned.) 

I switch on my mobile and check the Me entry in my contacts (having already checked the landline’s caller display and found that I haven’t rung home recently). And there I am in my own contacts, only I’m a digit short. Now, Anne has to switch on her mobile, to give me my mobile number, to enter it into a screen, so that a machine can text me, so that I can enter the verification code, so that I can access my Pad, which looks exactly like it used to an hour ago. Along the way I skip all the marvellous new services that I never wanted (tough luck, Siri).

Creative writing can be a lot like that. A submission needs a synopsis, which needs a complete manuscript, which needs editing, which needs writing and drafting. And before then we need time to bring together all the elements that make a book interesting to us and the reader. Each step feels like a cross between a quest (which it is), a scavenger hunt (which it can be), and a set of challenges designed to test our resilience and determination. But when those codes are acquired and entered in the right sequence we access something magical. We have become writers. 




  1. I like this post because it so perfectly sums up how you can never just DO anything: maybe you have a relatively simple task to complete, or an activity you're looking forward to, but there's always 5,000 extra piddly things you have to do before you can do the thing. Sometimes it gets so exasperating you just want to give up. But if you approach it with a steady heart and determination, more like a puzzle that, upon its completion, unlocks something wonderful, then you can get to the fun, productive part.

    Anyhow, I also have a two-step access code situation, too, and, rather foolishly, my Apple ID is in a document that I keep ON MY DESKTOP. You can see the flaw.

  2. Hi Monika, it's good to know it's not just me! I think part of the problem lies in our unrealistic expectations of how long these things take. Maybe we're of an age (ahem…) where we are too set in our analogue brains? I like the puzzle analogy because it reminds me of those ancient computer games. You're in a room and you find a key… What are you writing at the moment?

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