Friday, May 6, 2011


What a silly, maladapted little creature!
Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along. I have no warm-up exercises, other than to take an occasional drink. I am apt to let something simmer for a while in my mind before trying to put it into words. I walk around, straightening pictures on the wall, rugs on the floor—as though not until everything in the world was lined up and perfectly true could anybody reasonably expect me to set a word down on paper.

— E.B. White, "The Art of the Essay" (Interview), The Paris Review1

Me, I tend to walk in circles, like a predator circling its prey, or a burglar casing a building. The metaphors and the methods differ, but the purpose is the same: it is not procrastination, but rather preparation. Each of us has his or her own little rituals and techniques to concentrate the mind.

The drinking sounds about right, however.

1 The Paris Review Interviews, IV. New York: 2009, p. 138.

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