This chapter might not seem to be about writing, but it is.
While still in my teens, I came across a quote that has stuck with me. The words were Emerson’s, and the philosopher had written, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”
In my gangly enthusiasm, I neatly copied those words onto an index card, carefully folded the card into quarters, and carried it as a sort of literary smelling salts, to be inhaled when I needed a rush of pragmatic bravado for those situations in which I felt overmatched.
I wish I could tell you that the quote radically altered my life, that Emerson’s spirit blew hot across the centuries, filling my lungs with his transcendental fury, but it didn’t. I probably ...