Roger Rosenblatt on How to Write Great

Roger Rosenblatt, a wonderful writer and occasional contributor to The Washingtonian, on “How to Write Great”:

A curious line in Auden’s elegy to Yeats applies to writing great: “Teach the free man how to praise.” Auden seems to be saying that freedom, used most typically for carping and revolt, might also acknowledge that the world is worth thinking well of.

The writers we admire most are propelled by a mixture of innocence and chutzpah—the nerve to write big coupled with a childlike need to cultivate the virtues they have always believed in. They may surprise themselves by the insistence of their own higher motives and values. They may also believe that as readers, we will surprise ourselves for the same reasons.

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