I am beginning this essay twenty minutes before I am scheduled to record an audio interview with the British novelist Santa Montefiore. As always, I do not know what we will talk about. This used to concern me. What if I have nothing to ask the author? And so I would write down a series of questions and draw upon my nascent acting skills to sound natural as I asked them. I have since abandoned the prewritten questions. The conversations are always so much more interesting to me when I don’t have them. In this way, the interviews are like writing, the blank page like the author with whom I’m speaking. Whatever vague ideas I have about what I might write or what I might ask a writer must be tested against the reality of the blank page or the author.
Strange how the blank page teaches us as much about reality as other people do. Other people are continuously teaching me about reality, teaching me that I cannot predict it or control it, just as I cannot predict or control what another person will say. So too with the blank page. I cannot really predict or control what arrives when I face it.
Oh, but I wish sometimes it were otherwise, just as I have wished sometimes that I were a puppeteer king of all those around me. When I drive a car do I not have complete control over it, and does not this very control determine whether I live or die? Do I not earn my bread from this blank page, and do I not require the cooperation of those around me to do what I wish to do?
The flesh is indeed quite weak, that it would require what it cannot have. Best to come to the page, to the world, not as a king to his subjects, but as a traveler finding comfort in a strange land. Here is where our safety lies, that moment when the unknown sheds its shadow and life is known again.
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