The Paris Review

The Moment of Writing

Leonid Pasternak, The Passion of Creation, c. 1880.

When does writing begin? The act of committing the first words to a page—as I am doing now—is cited for its difficulty. Though those words might well be deleted from the final draft, the resistance of the blank page is justifiably famous. It’s an entrance to the unknowable, like the doorway on your first school-going day as a child. Once you’ve gone through, you’re in a different domain; you’re the story, which involves inhabiting a new space and a new self. Before going in, you stare at the lit doorway of the blank page, partly with anxiety and partly with exhaustion. Exhaustion because the blank page is not only the beginning but the end of something. It’s the end of the hours or days or months you’ve spent considering both the subject and the prospect of writing about it. Arriving at the blank page represents ourNow we must get down to telling.

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