As I’m eager to write & try to write proper, I stumbled upon this book by Robert D. Richardson. These are what I liked the most out of the above book:
What Emerson Read:-
Epictetus, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Bacon, Solomon, Berkeley, Sharon Turner, Plutarch, Pluto,
What Emerson didn’t recommend:
Bancroft, Prescott, Motley, avoid all second hand borrowings; collections of _________, Beauties of ______
- Don’t omit that you meant to say
- Good writing and brilliant conversation are perpetual allegories
- all writing should be selection in order to drop every dead word
- Words must affirm themselves, not the grammar, verisimilitude and array of arguments
- All that can be thought can be written
Emerson was a prodigious, inveterate reader, a man in love with and addicted to books. Emerson noted that Coleridge has identified 4 types of readers
- Hourglass – gives back everything takes in
- Sponge – same as above, but little;e dirtier
- Jell-Bag – squeezes out the valuable and keeps the worthless
- Golconda – runs everything through a sieve, keeping only nuggets, as American miners call a “high-grader” — a person who goes through a mine and pockets only the richest lumps of ore
Drugged with books for want of wisdom. When we read actively, we can profit from anything. A good head cannot read amiss. Read for facts and not by the bookful. You must know the ownership in facts.Creative reading and writing are inseparable. Reading is just a means, the end – the purpose was writing.
Voluminous journals are your savings bank. Keep a journal….for the habit of rendering account to yourself or yourself in some rigorous manner and at more certain intervals than mere conversation. What Emerson kept, and he recommended enthusiastically to others, were what used to call commonplace books, blank bound volumes in which one writes down vivid images, great descriptions, striking turns of phrase, ideas, high points from one’s life and reading – things one want to remember and hold on to. A common place book is not a diary, an appointment calendar or a record of one’s feelings. If your journal consists of the best moments of your life and reading, then rereading it will be like walking mountain trail that goes from peak to peak without intervening descent into the trough of routine. Just reading in such journal of high points will tighten your strings and raise your pitch
The best single bit of practical advice about writing Emerson ever gave — best because it is a cry from the heart, because it focuses on attitude not aptitude, and because it is a stirring as a rebel yell – is this: “The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent”. In writing casting a moment is of greatest importance and to keep it in its original form, uncontaminated by later improvements and subtleties and qualifications. Emerson emphasized this point with Cyrano de Bergerac flash: “Thre or four stubborn necessary words are the pith and fate of the business; all the rest is expatiating and qualifying; three or four real choices, acts of will of somebody, teh rest is circumstance, satellite and flourish”.
Nature is the vehicle of thought and in single, double and three fold degree
- Words are signs of natural facts
- Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts
- Nature is the symbol of spirit
Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight. Wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind. Transgression means crossing the line.
“Universe is the extermination of the soul” said Emerson and this is literally true for the writer
The Language of the Street
Prefer the street language which the common folk understand and is spoken. Start your writing as if you’re lecturing.
Choosing words and using words are the central inescapable acts of writing. The laws of composition is as strict as those of sculpture and architecture. The control and placement of emphasis are partly a question of sentence mechanics and partly a matter of word choice. In good prose (says Schlegel) every word should be underlined….no italics in Pluto….In good writing every word means something. IN good writing word become one with things. Emerson seems to have followed one rule of thumb much of the time – it’s not explicitly stated anywhere – and that is: where you can, use words of monosyllable. Writers must add or subtract what they can, but they must save the intuition. For after all, Emerson insists, “Literature is a heap of nouns and verbs enclosing an intuition or two”.
Emerson liked sentences that had a little bite or pop, a flash-point, and he had several different ways of achieving this effect, which we may distinguish as the whip-crack, the back-flip, the brass ring hole in one) and the mouse trap.
In whip-crack sentence, it is the final word that makes the whole sentence snap. e.g. — “Every man is wanted, but no man is wanted much”
In back-flip, where the energy comes from a pat reversal“. e.g. –"Every hero becomes a bore at last” , “Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing”
Brass ring, e.g. — “All mankind love a lover”, “Hitch your wagon to a start”, “Things are in the saddle, / and ride mankind”
If you write a better book, or preach a better sermon, or build a better mousetrap than your neighbor, the world will make a beaten path to your door. The mousetrap sentence, usually baited with a Latinate abstraction, and usually sprung with plain Anglo-Saxon. e.g. — “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”, “Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can”.
Art is the Path
The process of poetry also mimics process of nature. This expression or naming is not art, but a second nature, grown out of first, as a leaf out of tree. What we call nature is a self-regulated motion or change. Another aspect of nature is genius, which Emerson observes, “is the activity which repairs the decay of things”. His example – and it is surprising pre-Darwinian, anti-Malthusian one – is from nature, which, as he says, “through all her kingdom insures herself”. Emerson gets specific, full of enthusiasm, sounds like Carl Sagan. “Nobody cares for planting the poor fungus; so she shakes down from the gills of one agarics [a gill bearing mushroom or toadstool] countless spores, any one of which, being preserved, transmits new billions of spores tomorrow or next day. The new agarics of this hour has a chance which the old one had not. This atom of seed is thrown into a new place, not subject to accidents which destroyed its parent two rods off”. As with the agarics, so with the humans. Nature “makes a man; and having brought him to ripe age, she will no longer run the risk of losing this wonder at a blow, but she detaches from him a new self, that the kind may be safe from accidents to which the individual is exposed”. As with agarics and human generations, so nature handles poet. So when the soul of the poet has come to ripeness of thought, she [Nature] detaches and sends away from it poems or songs – a fearless, sleepless, deathless progeny, which is not exposed to the accidents of the weary kingdom of time.