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Pre-Cut, Interlocking Pieces

I’m going to finish my series on technical writing in Google Docs this week with what will probably be the most valuable lesson of all. And dinosaurs.

A couple weeks ago I told a story about one of my week-long visits to Granddad’s, and my great ambition involving killer robot dinosaurs. That story involved notebooks full of hand-drawn schematics.

Of course, what does a kid know about drawing schematics, right? I thought making them more complicated made them more powerful — these days, I understand that in almost every discipline true genius comes in making things as simple as possible.

Back then I disdained the simple (as the inexperienced so often do). I wanted to make things so brilliant they baffled. I dedicated myself to it.

I know this about myself, because I vividly remember one traumatic encounter with the elegantly simple during those same days.

Whenever I went to visit my grandparents, sometime about halfway through the week, Granddad would take me to a bookstore or a hobby shop somewhere in town to pick out one something to keep me busy. I remember the agony of seeing all the tantalizing items on display, and having to choose just one.

I made these trips every summer for several years, and while I don’t remember a lot from those times, I remember each and every one of these shopping trips in vivid detail. Twice — twice! — I bought video games that just looked so cool…and then had to wait five days to get home before I could play them.

Three times I bought books — two Hardy Boys and Ivanhoe, on Granddad’s recommendation (which I’m reading again right now). I never regretted those purchases.

The very first time, though — the same time he found me drawing schematics — he took me to a hobby shop and as soon as I walked in the door I knew what I was getting. On a prominent display, just inside the door, they had a model dinosaur kit.

A model dinosaur kit! The cover had a painted illustration of a T. Rex mauling a Brontosaurus (yes, this was back in the days when they had Brontosauri). I grabbed it, looked up at Granddad, and said, “I’m getting this.”

He nodded, showing some appreciation for the choice, but still showed me around some of the other stuff in the store. There were a lot of cool things, but I never once set down that box. Five minutes later, I finally led him to the counter and he paid the good man for my new model dinosaur.

Back at the house I headed straight to my room, tore open the box, and poured out the pieces. I reached for the instructions, but even as I did my heart sank. This wasn’t what I wanted.

It was four sheets of balsa wood, with pre-cut, interlocking pieces shaped crudely like dinosaur bones. The whole “assembly” consisted of punching out the pieces, and sticking them one-by-one onto the long curved spine.

It wasn’t anything like the painting on the cover! It wasn’t even the T. Rex from the cover art — I got a Brontosaurus model. With an entire store full of toys to choose from, I’d picked a freaking herbivore, made from a “model kit” that was about as much fun as a connect-the-dots.

I put the thing together, and left it sitting on the dresser for the rest of the week just so I could give it a good resentful stare every time I entered the room.

Why You Need to Use Google Docs Templates

You knew this story was headed toward a writing lesson, right? I said that right from the first.

This week we’re going to talk about document templates — the boring sheets of pre-cut, interlocking pieces of the Tech Writing world. And everything they lack in that exciting potential to do murder to helpless, non-existent herbivores, they make up for in convenience and utility.

I understand why a six-year-old would resent that trade-off, but as a grown-up who has to do business writing whether I want to or not, I absolutely love it. I’m sure you will, too. Come back tomorrow to learn how Google Docs templates can improve your writing process.

Photo credit and Think Geek.

One Response to “Pre-Cut, Interlocking Pieces”

  1. This post was highly amusing. 🙂

    I won’t display what a geek I am by revealing that I remember when the Apatosaurous replaced the Brontosorous in science books and museums…uh…oops. But I will point out that any spelling errors I just made in the names of the two only un-geekify me. Which is precisely the reason I REFUSED to look them up on Wikipedia.