Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The terror of the blank page

It's that time of year when I have to get writing lectures on books I've either never read, or haven't read for a long time. I also have to get on with doing some research, which is how I'll get a better job elsewhere.

Unfortunately, my mind freezes at the sight of the blank page - something with which students may be familiar when starting essays.

We aren't alone: this is a quotation from Swann's Way, volume one of his massive Remembrance of Things Past:

And these dreams reminded me that, since I wished, some day, to become a writer, it was high time to decide what sort of books I was going to write. But as soon as I asked myself the question, and tried to discover some subjects to which I could impart a philosophical significance of infinite value, my mind would stop like a clock, I would see before me vacuity, nothing, would feel either that I was wholly devoid of talent, or that, perhaps, a malady of the brain was hindering its development.


Anonymous said...

Is 'Remembrance of Things Past' worth the bother Vole?

The Plashing Vole said...

I think it is, but you have to be in the right frame of mind, and be happy to take it slowly. If you have to read it in English, get the really recent translation in 7 separate books: 1 a year is quite sufficient.

I tried when I was about 17 and hated every second of it - when I went back at 25, I loved a lot of it. Now I'm 35 I'll try again and will probably hate the bits I loved and love the bits I hated: the texts stay the same but the reader changes. Still working on Dickens though.