Nick put two screws through one piece of wood and into another one and then when he’d done it he had a thing. He looked at the thing almost surprised, did a few motions with it to check it really had three dimensions, and then he tried it on the table. Sure enough, it went on the table.

The way Nick makes things, he doesn’t make them from all over at once. Even if he knows what they’re pretty much going to look like, all the holes and fixtures have to be made from one place at a time or they won’t go in straight. Then after he’s put all the bits in place he can hold it apart and check, and see what it works like.

We worked together for a couple of days last week to see how a collaboration might work. I wrote things and he made things, and we tried to keep track of what one another were up to. 

I think it was easier for me to keep an eye on his work than it was for him to keep an eye on mine. I could watch him picking things up, putting them down, putting them together, and then I could look down at the constructions he was assembling around him on the floor. But watching me at work, all he would have got was me hunched over a book. As I write I’m putting things together, moving them, trying them out, holding them apart to check, but the movements aren’t in the room where Nick’s eyes are.

He had to actually lean over my book to see my movements, and I had to angle the page so he could read it. He could see the accretions left behind on my page from all the work, and, if I was putting letters onto the paper during the time of his watching, he could see me try to accumulate more words. But he could never see the words and sounds turning about in the space just above the page before I try them on the paper, or the shapes and systems forming in the air of the room to check whether they really have three dimensions.

He only had the tabletop to look at, where I was accumulating all the verbal contraptions that were pretty much in working order, or at least working well enough to bother keeping, or at the very least, whose strands were sufficiently workable to be more or less able to be kept