Only Bertrand Russell

by Corey Robin on November 17, 2013

I’ve spent the last month working on a paper on Burke, Babeuf, and Adam Smith. (Guess which of these two had a similar theory of value? Hint: It’s not Smith.) It’s been a miserable experience.

Whenever I have trouble writing, I remember this passage from Philip Roth:

I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I’m frantic with boredom and a sense of waste.

And I feel better.

But then I read this from Bertrand Russell:

I…found that my first draft was almost always better than my second.  This discovery has saved me an immense amount of time.