Between 35-word reviews of absolutely everything in Seattle, I've been snacking on Robert D. Richardson's little book about my boyfriend Ralph Waldo Emerson, First We Read, Then We Write. (It's kind of a goofy title, and there's not much to it; Richardson's biography, The Mind on Fire, is the one to go for if you like RW like I do.) It's a week overdue from the library, so I'm giving it back today, but here are some of the parts I liked most:
"The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent."
Yeah!! Ralph is a badass.
How'd he get to be such a badass? He blames nonconformity: "I never listened to your people's law, or to what they call their gospel, and wasted my time. I was content with the simple rural poverty of my own. Hence this sweetness."
Here's a good rule for those days when self-pity seems like a handy excuse for stagnation:
"Work and learn in evil days, in insulted days, in days of debt and depression and calamity. Fight best in the shade of the cloud of arrows."
This one's particularly relevant lately (especially on weekends):
"You must do your work before you shall be released."
This one too:
"I lose days determining how hours should be spent."
"Always that work is more pleasant to the imagination which is not now required."
But this sentence might be my very favorite one:
"Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can."