In praise of the Internet

Have you noticed how many facts there are? Not counted lately? Don’t even try. They’re everywhere, lying in wait, watching your every move. They lurk behind dates, quotations and proper nouns; they hide in distances, times – whole rivers of numbers; they hunt in packs around battles and inventions, daring you to approach, defying attempts to nail them down, cackling gleefully and nudging each other as they await the chance to catch you out. It only needs one of them to sneak through – just one – and you’re done for. So you cast your net wide: Bogota becomes a South American capital; the London cholera outbreak occurred in the latter part of the nineteenth century; ferrous oxide or ferric? – damnit, rust! But the word count is rising and you have a sneaking feeling that your ignorance is becoming obvious, not to say embarrassing. You can’t get to the library till the day after tomorrow, and anyway look at the time… Oh shit – another piece that will never get finished.

That was twenty years ago, maybe only ten. Nowadays, the facts don’t have a chance – they’re all right there at your fingertips, just a google away. Life is so much easier for compulsive writers like you – and me. Now, if only we had something to say…

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