Rousseau on writing

In The Discourses and other Early Political Writings there is a very short text entitled ‘Idea of the Method in the Composition of a Book’. Rousseau here makes writing sound deceptively easy: 

When one undertakes to write a work, one has already found the subject and at least part of the material, so that it is only a question of developing and organising it in the way best suited to convince and to please…


It is difficult to form a a good working plan unless one has an exact Mind and perfect knowledge of one’s material…

And finally

Above all one must know how to end. Nowadays it is fashionable to find all Books excessively long; I find a number of them excessively short, but it is their ending that always seems to me drawn out… Peroration is a Rhetorician’s device; if you said what needed saying and as it needed to be said in the body of the work, the reader will be perfectly capable of drawing the conclusion.

I’ve never liked writing conclusions, which seem to require a need to tidy things up and provide a final word on something. Mapping the Present had a ‘conclusion’, but I’ve managed to avoid them since. Perhaps now I have a decent argument for why I resist them.

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