Why Writing is Like Building Furniture from Ikea

Pick up the novel nearest to your hand you have read. Flick through it. You understand the plot, the characters, thematic concerns and the nuances of the language used by the author. It is said that everyone has a novel in them. Then you think, “I can give one of these novel things a crack. Doesn’t seem too hard.”

In your hand you hold a pen, ready to scribe your first novel. You know your story will unfold like a fresh bed sheet snapped out, floating down with delicate grace. The characters are complex individuals; the dialogue witty and full of sly observations; the plot is fresh and modern; the thematic concern touches on the toughest questions of life (but you have all the answers).

Sitting down you aim to start, but suddenly you are verbally constipated, stuck with the result of too much cheese and crackers. There are brief starts and squeezing out paragraphs with such force you could turn coal into a diamond.

So while it is said there is a novel in everyone, it is also said that no man is an island or that, all in all, we’re just another brick in the wall. And maybe that novel inside you should stay there because not everyone is called to be a novelist in the same way I am not called to be the Prime Minister of Australia (it would be a benevolent dictatorship, I assure you).

And it is because writing is difficult. It is hard. It is brutal at times. To understand how hard writing is, let me write you a simile.

Writing is like building furniture from Ikea.

In your hands you hold the instruction manual and emblazoned on the front is a catalogue image of what the finished product should look like. Caveat Addendum: power tools and me are mutually exclusive entities. I am useless with things that would validate my Man Card for all eternity.

Turning to the first page, the opening declaration states: “You must be two people to assemble this item.” (True story – was in the instructional leaflet for a lamp my wife and I received as a wedding gift).

So you lay out on the ground all the component pieces, checking you have everything you need. Then there’s the Allen key, the hexagonal tool of mystery. It is the key to success but lose it and you’re doomed to a lifetime of failure if you cannot wield it’s magical properties.

And so you begin. The instructions make no sense, you need the input of 6 people and certain words fly out of your mouth that would cause your mother to wash your mouth out with a wire brush and Dettol if she heard you.

People know to stand clear because the vein in your temple is throbbing and pulsating like a death metal blast beat, and one more inconvenient dropped screw or slipped piece of timber will cause your frustration level to become cataclysmic.

I am not usually a swear-y person, but this ad was too good not to include. Please excuse me.

The object before you takes on the appearance of Frankenstein’s monster; it is ugly, gangly, obtuse, imperfect, but dammit, you’re making it!

And yet you persevere; this thing will not beat you. Your aim is to give it life, and LIFE IT SHALL HAVE!

Finally, after hours of building, cursing, swearing, begging, pleading and grovelling, IT IS FINISHED. All the lines and angles are straight. Its beauty and function are unparalleled.

You did it!! (with a little help from your friends) And you don’t have a piece missing or a leftover screw.

And then someone asks why couldn’t have just bought one that was already put together.

This is why writing is like building furniture from Ikea.

With thanks to Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) and Monica Marier (@lil-monmon) whose comments I have appropriated.

Add your own additions to this idea in the comments below.

One response to “Why Writing is Like Building Furniture from Ikea

  1. Pingback: IKEA Love | Home in a Woods

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