Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson on writing well

It is not uncommon to find a book, usually a juicy novel, that we find hard to put down. It is unusual to find a non-fiction book, particularly one about a 19th century author, that has this addictive effect. I maybe exposing my nerdiness, but this happened to me this past weekend. I picked up a copy of First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process by Robert Richardson. Richardson uses examples of Emerson's writing, selections from his journals, and excerpts from his letters to examine his unique creative process. This multifaceted book is part biography, part literary criticism and part how-to manual. Richardson delves into Emerson's use of language and his desire to use the language "of the street." He makes the point that Emerson thought that the well formed sentence was the key to good writing. This pithiness explains why so many authors and speakers make such liberal use of Emerson quotations in their books and presntations.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Emerson or in improving their own writing. Emerson's writing and creativity was fed by his close contact with a circle of literary friends, Thoreau, Hawthorne, the Alcott's etc. If you want to nurture your writing with a circle of literary friends, plan on attending the Ligonier Valley Writers Conference this coming summer. You may not become the Emerson of our age, but you will grow as a writer and you will certainly have a lot of fun.

Keep your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas flowing and the dream alive.

Thanks for reading.

Jim Busch    

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