The Foreigner

My oldest son is starting high school today. Occasionally, a movie crops up about a character transported back to high school where he or she lives as a teenager but with the life experience of an adult. I understand the temptation of this fantasy, but it is actually a very strange thing to wish for. You would be unbelievably bored if this every actually happened to you because you have already learned everything high school had to teach you.

Life is never so interesting as when we are learning something. Writers above all should understand this. What is the blank page after all? It doesn’t matter how many stories you’ve already written, it doesn’t matter how much you outline, or how many classes you’ve taken, or books on writing you’ve read, the blank page is the start of a new journey into a foreign country.

It is tempting as a traveler to view the unknown country as unfriendly. To hear writers talk about their works in progress sometimes is like listening to a soldier radio from behind enemy lines. Whose idea was it to send them here, and how will they ever get out? The way out, of course, is always the same as the way in, namely your own curiosity.

You will stay in that foreign country until you have discovered all you wish to discover. You are never lost; you are only trying to understand the way out before you have found it, and this is confusing. All roads do in fact lead to Rome. You may not be able to see Rome, but it is always there. If you are feeling lost, return to where you are at this very moment. This is where all the clues exist.  You need only pick the path that interests you most and it will inevitably lead where you need to go.

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