Wilfrid Sellars on Writing


Although I enjoyed teaching and could contemplate this aspect of an academic career with enthusiasm, writing was quite another story. Like most American students I had almost no experience in writing term papers until the last two years of college. Examinations I took in my stride; the constraints assimilated writing them to the debater’s task of thinking on one’s feet. With papers, there was always (until the last minute!) the opportunity for second and third thoughts about every step, and, as so often happens, the will-o’-the-wisp of the best made every choice look bad. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that no matter how clumsy, gappy, and incoherent a first draft is, it contains the essence of what one has to say; and the comfort of finding raw material on paper to be licked into shape makes writing the next draft an entirely different experience. I have known philosophers whose first draft is the final product, and an excellent one at that. But I contemplate them with the same awe as I do Mozart, who could hear completed symphonies in his head.

One response

  1. Very true!! I love the task of making the rough drafts of my posts into something that really gives me satisfaction!

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