Off the Shelf: Writers on Writing
"First we eat, then we beget," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. "First we read, then we write." Emerson was an essayist of the first order, but he never sat down to write specifically about writing. His thoughts on the matter have been culled from his letters and essays by scholar Robert D. Richardson and collected in the slim volume, "First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process" from the University of Iowa Press.
It wasn't until high school that I was actually able to write. But I spent years -- first with Army men, later with "Star Wars" action figures and later still, with these role-playing games -- creating stories. And if none of my childhood friends wanted to play with dolls (because let's be honest: Army men and "Star Wars" action figures are dolls) or in my dungeon, I would sit in my bedroom and create these stories by myself...
It's the latest in our new weekly series Off the Shelf: writers on writing, which debuted during the Festival of Books with a piece on writers block by Art Spiegelman. We've also had Taylor Antrim on the hazards of the second novel and Nahid Rachlin on writing at home in Iran.
What's next? Check back: A new essay in the Off the Shelf series posts every Friday.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Left photo: A Ralph Waldo Emerson daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes. Credit: George Eastman House / Hulton Archive / Getty Images.
Right photo: An Art Spiegelman image.