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Schopenhauer, On Authorship and Style (excerpts p 1)

Schopenhauer, On Authorship and Style (excerpts p 1)

Arthur Schopenhauer’s “On Authorship and Style” is an essay full of nuggets on writing (and much more). Let me share a few (at the risk of contradicting the spirit of the essay by ‘sound biting’ another author!).

On accommodating a foolish audience:

A great number of bad authors eke out their existence entirely by the foolishness of the public, which only will read what has just been printed. I refer to journalists, who have been appropriately so-called. In other words, it would be “day labourer.

Three kinds of authors, the last of which thinks before writing:

Again, it may be said that there are three kinds of authors. In the first place, there are those who write without thinking. They write from memory, from reminiscences, or even direct from other people’s books. This class is the most numerous. In the second, those who think whilst they are writing. They think in order to write; and they are numerous. In the third place, there are those who have thought before they begin to write. They write solely because they have thought; and they are rare.

This ‘rare’ writer reminds me of Orestes Brownson’s self-reflection, recently quoted by a friend of mine:

In composing my work I have followed, rather than directed, the course of my thought.

On authors who are unclear for not having grappled sufficiently with their subject:

Book manufacturers, compilers, and the ordinary history writers, and others like them, take their material straight out of books; it passes into their fingers without its having paid transit duty or undergone inspection when it was in their heads, to say nothing of elaboration. (How learned many a man would be if he knew everything that was in his own books!) Hence their talk is often of such a vague nature that one racks one’s brains in vain to understand of what they are really thinking. They are not thinking at all.

I’ll share a few more excerpts tomorrow. Have a read of the whole essay here.

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