First We Read, Then We Write

First We Read, Then We Write : Emerson on the Creative Process

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Writing was the central passion of Emerson's life. While his thoughts on the craft are well developed in "The Poet", "The American Scholar", "Nature", "Goethe", and "Persian Poetry", less well known are the many pages in his private journals devoted to the relationship between writing and reading. Here, for the first time, is the Concord Sage's energetic, exuberant, and unconventional advice on the idea of writing, focused and distilled by the preeminent Emerson biographer at work today. Emerson advised that 'the way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent'. "First We Read, Then We Write" contains numerous such surprises - from 'every word we speak is million-faced' to 'talent alone cannot make a writer' - but it is no mere collection of aphorisms and exhortations. Instead, in Robert Richardson's hands, the biographical and historical context in which Emerson worked becomes clear. Emerson's advice grew from his personal experience; in practically every moment of his adult life he was either preparing to write, trying to write, or writing. Richardson shows us an Emerson who is no granite bust but instead is a fully fleshed, creative person disarmingly willing to confront his own failures. Emerson urges his readers to try anything - strategies, tricks, makeshifts - speaking not only of the nuts and bolts of writing but also of the grain and sinew of his determination. Whether a writer by trade or a novice, every reader will find something to treasure in this volume. Fearlessly wrestling with 'the birthing stage of art', Emerson's counsel on being a reader and writer will be read and reread for years to more

Product details

  • Hardback | 112 pages
  • 132.08 x 208.28 x 15.24mm | 226.8g
  • University of Iowa Press
  • Iowa, United States
  • English
  • 1587297930
  • 9781587297939
  • 294,764

Review quote

Richardson is Emerson s foremost biographer, and he has culled the great man s work for the kind of specific, timeless instruction that makes the difference between good writing and great writing. This is the book on writing that Emerson would have used to teach his lucky students. The chapter on sentences sparkles, and it alone is worth the purchase. Everyone who wants to learn about writing should read this book. Susan Cheever, author, "American Bloomsbury "and" Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction""show more

About Robert D. Richardson

Robert D. Richardson is the author of William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism, which won the 2007 Bancroft Prize, Emerson: The Mind on Fire, which won both the Francis Parkman Prize and the Melcher Book Award and was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, which also won the Melcher Book more

Rating details

193 ratings
3.95 out of 5 stars
5 31% (60)
4 39% (76)
3 24% (46)
2 5% (10)
1 1% (1)

Our customer reviews

I found this an enjoyable short read with many thought-provoking points for a writer. Robert D Richardson Jr. has done an excellent job of drawing together Emerson's views and philosophies and has presented them in a concise and interesting way. This is not a general book that will appeal to just anyone because of its very particular subject matter, but I think it will be of interest of many writers for its comments and ideas about the creative process and the nature of writing. I received this ebook as a free review copy from more
by Nicola Markus
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