The most intimidating thing for me about writing is choosing a topic and getting started. The final deadline, no matter how far off, looms much higher and scarier when I’m staring at an empty computer screen or ill-defined section of shelf in the library. Conventional wisdom has served me well—just get started. Type your vague fleeting thoughts and inspirations. Grab a book with an interesting title. Gather momentum and, once you find your direction, there will be no stopping you.

I stumbled onto the topic for this paper using this “blindly barreling forward” technique. I knew I wanted to write on Ulysses. So I went to the library and found the relevant section. Floor to ceiling, an entire shelf was dedicated to analysis of James Joyce’s works, from comparisons to character study to social implications Ulysses claimed a huge cut. I was overwhelmed, but intrigued. I plucked an armful of promising volumes from the shelves and sat myself down on the cold concrete of the narrow aisle.

My selection mainly consisted of thick old books with general titles—at least three were called just Ulysses. I began desperately scanning indices and tables of contents. One slender volume called Sexuality in James Joyce caught my attention, and I paged through it with more care. An essay called “Gerty MacDowell through the Mutoscope” enthralled me, and I realized I’d spent nearly a half-hour reading it. At first I panicked, eyeing my still-towering stack of books, and decided I needed a break.

While walking to drown my fears in coffee, I mulled over what I’d read so far. After seemingly fruitless hours in the library, my epiphany came crossing the Comm. Ave. T tracks. The distraction I’d reprimanded myself for turned into the crux of my paper. So go ahead. Dive in. Wander around aimlessly. Jot down absolute nonsense. Get distracted (in a good way). Waste time researching before you’re sure what you’re looking for. You could be gathering fuel for your big Eureka moment.

MARIAH GRACE SONDERGARD is an enthusiastic writer and aspiring journalist. She plans to transfer into Boston University’s School of Communication. She loves writing anything —papers, poems, lyrics, essays—and would leave writing only for her other passion, performing. She is alive on stage. Music feeds her soul, whether she is singing, dancing (ballroom or otherwise), or listening—though rarely do any take place alone. She grew up in the Middle of Nowhere, Central Wisconsin, but fell in love with the city of Boston. She would like to thank her mother for all her help in her writing and for her encouragement and inspiration, especially her unfailing mantra, “Don’t ever let anyone steal your dreams.” This essay was written for David Green’s WR150: The Literature of Identity.