Where We Start

This passage from “Little Gidding,” the fourth of T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” describes the process as well as anything I have ever read.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

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Alice Munro’s Living-Room Acceptance (via The New Yorker)

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Alice Munro explains the writer’s life as she accepts her Nobel Prize for Literature:

“When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people; you’re doing some job that other people don’t know you’re doing, and you can’t talk about it really, and you just are always finding your way in this secret world, and then you’re doing something else in the normal world.”