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Exercise #19: Lead line: “Every morning I sit across from you…”

Every morning I sit across from you, and you stare back at me with a blank screen. I’ve configured you so that the WriteRoom word processor’s solid-black window hides everything else on the screen—the other applications, the desktop, the menus, the dock. I chose these settings so it would be just you and me when I sit down to write every day for the first of two 25-minute periods. The top line of the blank page is dark gray, and an insertion point in antique white blinks impatiently at me.

Some days, I feel as if you’re taunting me. “So you think you’re a writer, do you?” On better days, you are more encouraging: “I am here for you, empty, but full of possibilities. I know you can do this.” I click command-S and give a bland name to the blank document—090724 Free writing.rtf. I don’t want to take the chance of losing what I’ve written, and I don’t want to have to stop mid-way through the 25 minutes to navigate to the proper folder and save the file. I’m ready to begin.

I click the F12 button to make my widgets appear for a moment. The meditation timer is still set for 25 minutes from last night’s second writing episode, so all I have to do is click begin session. I hit F12 again, and the widgets disappear as the chime sounds with a reverberating boing! The screen is black again.

Without fail, I type the words “Begin again.” This is a two-word shorthand for a lot of knowledge and experience and ideas I’ve collected over the last several years of trying to become a serious writer. “Begin again” invokes Anne Lamott, who observed that every time you sit down to write, there’s a sense in which you must start anew. It also reminds me of the Zen exercises of Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake. It signals commitment in the face of the impossible odds that grow out of the unpredictable and arbitrary nature of life. It’s my way of saying, “I have as much reason to write as anyone else does, so here I go.”

Note: The prompt was to begin a piece with the assigned phrase.

© 2009 Edward F. Gumnick

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