Nietzsche’s 10 Rules for Writers

Between August 8 and August 24 of 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche set down ten stylistic rules of writing in a series of letters to the Russian-born writer, intellectual, and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé — One of the First Female Psychoanalysts .

Salomé's mother took her to Rome, Italy when she was 21. At a literary salon in the city, Salomé became acquainted with Paul Rée, an author and compulsive gambler with whom she proposed living in an academic commune. After two months, the two became partners. On 13 May 1882, Rée's friend Friedrich Nietzsche joined the duo. Salomé would later (1894) write a study, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken, of Nietzsche's personality and philosophy. The three travelled with Salomé's mother through Italy and considered where they would set up their "Winterplan" commune. Arriving in Leipzig, Germany in October, Salomé and Rée separated from Nietzsche after a falling-out between Nietzsche and Salomé, in which Salomé believed that Nietzsche was desperately in love with her.

Left to right, Andreas-Salomé, Rée and Nietzsche (1882) A comical scene laid out by Nietzsche, as a sort of a lament by both himself and his friend, Paul, the two of whom had both recently been rejected after proposing marriage to one Lou Salomé (the relentless 'cart driver'). Photographed in the studio of Jules Bonnet in Lucerne in 1882.

The list reads:
1. Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.

2. Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)

3. First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present,” before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.

4. Since the writer lacks many of the speaker’s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.

5. The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything — the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments — like gestures.

6. Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.

7. Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.

8. The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

9. Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.

10. It is not good manners or clever to deprive one’s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to one’s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.

Beneath the list, Andreas-Salomé reflects on Nietzsche’s style in light of his aphoristic predilection:

“To examine Nietzsche’s style for causes and conditions means far more than examining the mere form in which his ideas are expressed; rather, it means that we can listen to his inner soundings. [His style] came about through the willing, enthusiastic, self-sacrificing, and lavish expenditure of great artistic talents … and an attempt to render knowledge through individual nuancing, reflective of the excitations of a soul in upheaval. Like a gold ring, each aphorism tightly encircles thought and emotion. Nietzsche created, so to speak, a new style in philosophical writing, which up until then was couched in academic tones or in effusive poetry: he created a personalized style; Nietzsche not only mastered language but also transcended its inadequacies. What had been mute, achieved great resonance.”

The list comes from the book “Nietzsche” written by Salomé long after their friendship had ended. It provides a retrospective of Nietzsche’s life and philosophical career. (Nietzsche by Lou Andreas-Salomé)

See also:
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