You think about it, for a while, staring pensively out the window and turning this new idea over and over in your head like an old coin.
You watch from the shadows. You scroll through an endless feed of success. Each thing you see is an affirmation. Look how easy it is!
Of the multitudes of others who have started, at least some of them have to be less capable than you. You think to yourself, this must be easy.
But easy, it is not. Because you sit down to begin and all of the sudden, every single original thought you have ever had in your life evaporates. You somehow forget how to speak, the letters on your keyboard staring at your accusingly.
Anyone can do this.
Suddenly, you remember that burning thing. That urgent email. You had better answer it immediately. Otherwise that customer service representative in India will be wondering what happened to you. You have to give your dog a bath. When was the last time you even did that? Unacceptable — she must be bathed immediately… but not before you reply to that email. While you’re at it, maybe you should check the news.
The blank page beckons.
You try again. This time, determined. You type a single, obstinate, letter, then another, then another. But where to go from here? Now, a fork-in-the-road. A million possibilities. Overwhelming — every word in the english language is clamoring to be your next. Maybe you should just make one up? Would this be easier if it was written in gobbledygook or elfish or something nobody understood? Then, they would not know your secret… that you are not a “real” writer. Maybe you should put a super-secret hyper-encrypted password on the file. So nobody will ever know what it contains. Flash forward: you are famous, but nobody knows why. Nobody has ever read your work.
The cursor blinks.
You think some more. Maybe you need to begin with an idea? Brainstorm, commence. This, you can do. Lists on scraps of paper begin piling up on surfaces around you. You ideate furiously: a scathing attack on anti-feminist kitten propaganda in post-war china? A chronicle of the world’s most expensive moo-moos? A highly researched pedagogical analysis of the starfish and other marginalization marine wildlife? A poem about beetles?
The page, still blank.
Again, you sit down. You scan the lists. What do you begin with? That kitten propaganda piece is too edgy. What will all your readers think if the first thing they read is angry and scornful? They might get the wrong idea about you.
Despair, again. You need to introduce yourself first, to set the record straight before it has been bent by anger over kitten propaganda. You need something perfect. A “Hello World,” the likes of which has never been seen or will be seen again. The alliteration and meter alone must bring readers to tears. If not? All is lost.
But… “Hello World” is too pedestrian. Unbecoming of a future acclaimed writer. What will the archivists think? You squirm in your seat. Skim a dictionary. Flip through a thesaurus. Stare at the ceiling — no ideas there.
It taunts, that page.
Finally, desperation. You type another word… no plan in mind. Just get this over with. Then comes another. Then another. Then another and another and another and another. Soon, you’re cooking. Things are happening. You’re doing ninety on the freeway with a blindfold on. A kitten parachutes out of a candy-cane colored airplane while the president of Ecuador declares a national emergency. Your fingers move with feverish speed. Damn, it feels good. You have effectively connected the murder of Inigo Del-Montoya in The Princess Bride with Richard Nixon’s housecoat. Brilliance. This is so easy.
At the end of it all, the cursor still blinks. But it blinks a little more slowly, as if it is tired. You shut your computer, tired too, but triumphant. Until tomorrow, you are successful.
Despair, but tempered with optimism. Somewhere, deep in the guts of this thing, are a few coherent thoughts. Chop it up, kill your babies. Don’t look back. Being the axe-man is infinitely easier than planting trees.
Finally, peace. When it is done, when it is all done, you have this silly article about Starting. Most of it is non-sensical, and it violates most rules of English. But maybe — just maybe, somebody out there someday will read it and smile.
Or maybe not. No worry. Today, have you have started. Tomorrow, the page will once again be blank, and you will begin again.