Here I am, spoiling the virgin blankness of this blog with my first post. Appropriately enough, I thought I'd share a few reflections on getting going.
Beginning a project has always been a big deal for me. I know this is also true for other writers. I invariably experience a mixture of difficult feelings when faced with a blank page or a new notebook, a mixture in which anxiety usually features strongly. At various times in the past I have been completely paralysed by this potent emotional cocktail. When this happens, I know that it's useless to push myself. I usually like to go away and do something physical (fast walking is good, as is kneading bread dough). If time is short and deadlines loom, though, I take a tip from Nobel laureate Janet Frame, who, when faced with seemingly intractable writers' block, resorted to typing "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" again and again. Since I usually write my early drafts in longhand, I just make any kind of mark on the paper. Gradually, I begin to write a few sentences. Sooner or later I realise that I am no longer very anxious, and can focus my attention on the task in hand. I have successfully broken the menacing spell of the blank page and I'm ready to start for real. Incidentally, Ms Frame claims that she spent whole days churning out typing exercises before she managed to actually start writing meaningful prose, which is rather reassuring to we of lesser talent.
In case you're wondering, this is what I'm trying to achieve by blethering on here. Some kind of start. I have a theory that successful writers are people who combine an awareness of quality with a very high tolerance for imperfection. They know more or less what they want to achieve, but don't go off in a mighty strop if it can't be done at once or with absolute perfection. Like a WW2 prisoner of war engaged in an escape attempt, they make a start and just keep tunnelling.