I have this friend with a shimmering mind. She’s an extremely brainy woman (moonlights at Google and teaches computer science at a San Francisco Bay Area college) who’s married to an extremely brainy man (also a Googlonian), and together they’ve produced a sweet 2 yr-old girl who’s already been hired by Google to design and test their baby apps—just kidding.
During a conversation today, my friend mentioned that they make their daughter’s toys at home, using a CNC machine. When I asked if it was a lathe, a tool I’d learned to use in my engineering days, she said that it was similar, but more like a router with special attachments that work along multiple axes, creating complex shapes by removing unnecessary material (a subtractive process). Here’s a YouTube video demonstration of a hobbyist’s CNC machine:
And then she went on to say that it’s the converse of a 3D printer, which uses an additive process. The sculpture below was produced by a 3D printer.
Sculpture by: Torolf Sauermann, designed using TopMod
I’ll let you stew on these two processes (and this lovely image) for a moment. Go ahead, I’ll wait………
Ready to move on? Well, as I often do, I started relating this new information to writing. How do I write? Do I start with a giant amorphous blob and then carve away the unnecessary parts until I have what looks like a story? That would be the CNC machine.
Or do I slowly select a word, a sentence, find the right one and place it precisely? Then move on and carefully select the next? Akin to the 3D printer.
After careful consideration—about a half second’s worth—I concluded I’m a wasteful CNC machine with detritus strewn about the floor. It’s not until I get to the revision process that I start to resemble a 3D printer, adding bits here, making minute adjustments there.
So now I’m wondering: Does the world hold two (are there more??) types of writers—the ones who carefully fold their toilet paper (3D printer) and the ones who use enormous wads to get the job done (CNC machine)?
I confess. I start out as a wadder and save folding for when I’m close to the end of the roll.
What type of writer are you?
P.S. Sorry to switch extended metaphors on you at the end, but I just couldn’t resist! )