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Begin at the Beginning

I’ll begin at the beginning, with a blank notebook whose pages beg, “Fill me.” It’s four o’clock in the afternoon on a bright spring day. I have taken Lily for an extra long walk, and now I am settled in my leather writing chair and I am— yes— writing. It feels good to put pen to page.
“Lily,” I croon, “you’re a good dog.”
But Lily is not a good dog. She’s a very naughty dog. Chief among her misdeeds is a fondness for pens. Lily is a writer’s dog, I joke. I settle in to write and Lily settles in to steal my pen. I move my hand across the page, and whenever I stop, Lily pounces. She grabs my pen and scampers off, only to emerge minutes later with a disemboweled pen and a jaunty black moustache.
“Lily, I’m trying to write,” I scold her, but the game of “get the pen” gives her great pleasure. She jumps on my lap, landing squarely on my notebook. She grabs my pen and scampers away. So now I am writing with pen number two. What I want to write about is writing itself.
“If only I could begin,” I am often told by would-be writers who can’t get started.
“I know that if I could just begin, I’d be in good shape. But I can’t seem to find my way in.”
Begin at the beginning, I tell such writers, but they often complain, “I don’t know the beginning.” And so, I say again, start where you are.
“But that seems so boring.”
Where you are is not boring, I protest. It’s the start of something grand. Let us say you are seated at your desk, looking out the window. A perfectly fine piece of writing might begin, “I’m seated at my desk, looking out the window.” This first thought leads to a second. A thought at a time, a sentence at a time, the page fills.