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Finding your real subject is just the beginning of the memoirist’s/essayist’s process. Much of the rest is about point of view, proportion, time frame, and the blending of narrative and more reflective elements. The first sentence encodes the DNA of the whole and is not arrived at through reasoned deliberation. So how do we think our way into an essay? Bring the opening page of something that you have been working on.
Sven Birkerts is the author of nine books, most recently The Other Walk: Essays (Graywolf, 2011). His provocative book The Gutenberg Elegies examined the cultural and personal effects of the Internet on reading. He is director of the Bennington Writing Seminars and edits the journal AGNI at Boston University.