Watching the London Olympics has reminded me what a solitary sport writing is. I hear swimmers talk about how “medaling” made it worth it—all those mornings of getting up early and plummeting into cold water.
Each time we begin a new project, we face a blank page. For me, it used to be staring down a sheet of copy paper rolled into my standard, portable, Olivetti typewriter; later, it was an old Underwood. Now it’s the lighted screen on my Mac laptop.
But the page is just as blank.
Franz Kafka once described writing as being “utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” And E.B. White lauded the sheer courage of writers, saying, “I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
But a spark of inspiration helps us to begin. This courage that White describes nudges us to continue. And dedication, hard work, and discipline—so familiar to Olympic athletes—can accompany us to the end. We won’t find ourselves on a medal stand in some arena, with the American anthem playing as our flag ascends, but we will feel that special satisfaction and the sheer joy of having written.
“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”—Steve Martin
E.B. White at work in his boathouse office.