There’s a nice saying in Irish –“tosnu maith leath na hoibre”, which basically means “a good start is half the labour”. Every writer knows that in his/her bones: if you can figure out how to start a piece, then you’re half-way there.
I thought of this today when reading Steve Shapin’s lovely opening to his London Review of Books review of Don’t You Have Time to Think?: The Letters of Richard Feynman. Here it is:
Should you win the Nobel Prize in physics, a lot of people will get in touch. Some of them will be former students (wishing you well); some will be colleagues (saying they wish you well). Presidents and prime ministers, who have no clue what it is you’ve done, will write, expressing the nation’s gratitude for whatever it is you’ve done. Childhood friends will write, saying they knew that nerdiness presaged Nobelity. Old schoolteachers will write, basking in reflected glory and taking their share of credit. The in-laws will write, implicitly retracting their former low opinion of their child’s choice. From all over the world complete strangers will write, requesting photographs and autographs and asking for validation of a totally original unified field theory that somehow escaped Einstein’s attention. Fathers of miserably lonely adolescent geeks will write, wondering whether it will turn out all right. And so too will the adolescent geeks themselves, asking what you were like at their age and whether you think they’ve got a genuine vocation for science…
Nice, isn’t it?