“The way to write is throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

EmersonIn First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process, Robert D. Richardson shares the very best of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts about the creative process in general, and about writing in particular.

There is no doubt in Richardson’s mind that Emerson could have published the material but probably didn’t because he was never wholly satisfied with his own work. His standards were so high “that even the Almighty could not have met them.”

In my opinion, Richardson’s Emerson: The Mind on Fire is the finest biography of him written thus far. What we have in First We Read, Then We Write is the only assemblage I know of that focuses on Emerson as a literary exemplar, sharing his thoughts about creative reading as well as creative writing. The primary sources include two magnificent essays, The American Scholar and The Poet. Emerson thought of himself more as a poet than as an essayist, one who earned this living as a lecturer. He viewed the poet as one who is representative, who “stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the commonwealth.” Writing is a noble calling that calls for noble sacrifice.” But Emerson never wrote an essay on the subject of writing.

Hopefully, many of those who read this volume will be encouraged to read Richardson’s biography as well several of Emerson’s essays. There are several excellent collections. My personal favorite is a Library of America College Edition, Emerson: Essays and Lectures: Nature: Addresses and Lectures/Essays: First and Second Series/Representative Men/English Traits/The Conduct of Life.

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