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First tentative steps, Day 2

My last post (Base Camp Day 1) optimistically set out a framework, and chirruped that I needed to identify what i had already written that would be relevant, adapt some of that material, make it fit for purpose and then stick it in the various relevant chapters. This, I thought, would give me a sense of achievement, and get me moving in the right direction. So then what did I do when I actually found myself in front of my monitor, with a fresh cup of coffee, Nine to Noon on in the background, a closed office door and no other handy distractions? Not that. Of course. I completely changed the script again. I have a suspicion I’ll be doing this a bit over the next wee while.

Why did I change? I found myself browsing though some other law texts on the presumption that looking at other textbooks will actually help me work out what I want this one to be. I had done a fair bit of this browsing before, and of course I had already identified the kind of text I want it to be. That’s why I put in place certain kinds of research in the first place and how I was able to get funding. I had to have an idea of what I wanted this book to be. But having that ‘overview’ is not quite the same thing as having a vision for each chapter that can then be turned into something on paper in front of my eyes. It was with this sharper focus in mind that I went on my little browsing adventure. And I came up with this loose framework that I am going to try and follow for each ‘benefit type’ chapter. (Those chapters where I explain and demonstrate the different clusters of benefits for different groups, family benefits, youth benefits, etc.). Here it is:

The format for each benefit chapter

  1. Opening remarks/introduction
  2. Identification of the relevant conceptual framework, and the steps for interpreting it for each section. Identification of relevant policy, and any issues of inconsistency
  3. Identify what areas will be covered.
  4. For each section:
    1. Identify eligibility criteria
    2. What entitlements are at stake
    3. Where the biggest legal challenges arise
    4. Cases that illustrate those problems, higher courts, SSAA decisions
    5. Options for future reform
  5. Concluding remarks

Also include: learning points (for student readers)

I have already made a start on the family benefits chapter. I have identified four principles or presumptions that underpin a lot of the relevant provisions. Identifying these principles as a ‘conceptual framework’ is probably a bit grand, really but it does depend on my own analysis to determine that these presumptions exist in the first place. Although I have looked through other social security law texts and seen how they identify operative presumptions and principles in those  legislative frameworks, our own system is distinct.  Now I just have to hope I’m right! Time, and more drafting will tell. I think this part of each benefit chapter will serve as a good underpinning for A-E above. Well I hope so. I’ve written 2,500 words so far, which is 2,500 words more than I had for this part of the book a week ago. So far to go, but it does feel good to be taking those baby steps. It’s a slow process, involving putting a sentence on paper, then checking each bit of legislation, MSD policy guidelines, checking earlier versions of the same legislative provisions, adding footnotes as I go to make sure each sentence is OK. But curiously I can do some of this without a great deal of sweat, because it is more about checking correctness and less about pursuit of argument. So I have been able to do a little bit each day for the last three days. That is the rhythm I’m hoping to establish: writing a small bit every day without fail. Ha!! Let’s wait and see.

2 responses »

  1. Kapai girl! Just a thought – you might like to look at Scrivener 2 software – i’ve started using it and it’s good for longer essays – available at – there’s a free trial for 30 days.
    Also one of my favourite writing books is Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ (available thru Wgtn Public LIb).
    The title comes from an incident Lamott recalls when her younger brother was overwhelmed by a school bird project he had to do and had left it till the last moment (as you do). His father’s advice at the time was ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’
    Another priceless piece of advice from Lamott is: ‘The first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up… The third draft is the dental draft where you check every tooth to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed or even, God help us, healthy.’
    xxx Gillian



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