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    If You're Suffering From Writer's Block, Check Out These Drafts From Famous Authors

    When in doubt, scrapbook.

    1. Emily Dickinson wrote her poems on envelopes when she got tired of regular paper:

    Amherst College Library / Via acdc.amherst.edu

    Towards the end of her life, Emily Dickinson began to write on envelopes, many of which were already used or addressed and unsent. Working at these odd angles allowed her to experiment with form, like in the above "Afternoon and the West," and might be a good experiment if you find yourself stuck.

    2. Walt Whitman edited a printed copy of "O Captain! My Captain!" for rhythm:

    Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Walt Whitman Papers (MMC) / Via loc.gov

    Whitman seems to have typed this draft up on a piece of used paper to see what it would look like. His revisions are pretty minor, but significant, like changing "Leave you not the little spot," to "O the bleeding drops of red!"

    3. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's manuscript of "The Adventures of Devil's Foot":

    From The New York Public Library / Via digitalcollections.nypl.org

    Doyle's meticulously neat edits on "The Adventures of Devil's Foot," one of his favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, are honestly kind of putting me to shame. But if you look closely, you can see he's writing on ruled paper!

    4. A chaotic page from Charles Dickens' notes for Curious Dance Round a Curious Tree:

    The New York Public Library / Via digitalcollections.nypl.org

    Dickens, on the other hand, wasn't such a big fan of orderliness. The next time you feel bad about your notes, please remember this description of a mental hospital, which is mostly crossed out in two different ways!

    5. Lord Alfred Tennyson jotted down a verse from "Enoch Arden" on a piece of scrap paper:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    "Enoch Arden" is a narrative poem that was published while Tennyson was England's poet laureate, but it looks like inspiration strikes regardless of whether your personalized stationary is around or not.

    6. Charlotte Perks Gillman's edits of a typed poem, and an important note:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    By this point in her career, Gillman had gained notoriety for her satirical poems, like the one above, as much as for "The Yellow Wallpaper." Still, her note at the bottom ("Please be sure it doesn't get printed.") is...relatable.

    7. Henry David Thoreau corrected drafts in pencil:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    Thoreau once wrote to The Atlantic's founding editor when someone struck a sentence from one of his essays, so, it's natural that he'd be hesistant of any major changes. In this journal entry, his main gripe seems to be deciding between using the word "flute" or "clarinet."

    8. Christina Georgina Rossetti crammed as many poems as she could onto one page:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    Crowded on the back of Rossetti's poem "Three Seasons" are two lesser-known poems that it seems she never published: "Song," and an untitled poem.

    9. A proof of Henry James A Light Man:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    James' A Light Man was first published The Galaxy magazine, but was heavily revised and reprinted in a later short story collection. Here's a look at some of those heavy revisions, including hurried notes about the merits of his protagonists, previously left out of the original.

    10. John Keats worked on a verse from "Isabella, or, The Pot of Basil" on this teeny tiny slip of paper — and he wasn't even done:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    This draft of Keats', written on a small slip of paper, contains a verse from "Isabella, or, The Pot of Basil," which differs slightly from the published version, proving that you never quite stop revising.

    11. Joseph Conrad's confused preface to Victory (Because you have to let the people know what you mean!):

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    Conrad's preface to Victory talks about his discomfort using the word as a title during World War I, and his hesitancy shows in his edits. He crosses out a line about removing the title with one about "altering" it, and wavers between being scared of "misleading" or "deceiving" his audience.

    12. Oscar Wilde's attempts to parse his thoughts in his essay "The Soul of Man Under Socialism":

    The New York Public Library / Via digitalcollections.nypl.org

    Wilde wrote this essay on socialism in 1891. Here he crossed out the line, "They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor," which would make it into the final draft anyway. Sometimes you don't have to kill all your darlings.

    13. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow scrapbooked the heck out of this manuscript:

    Harry Ransom Center / Via hrc.contentdm.oclc.org

    This is actually a verse from his poem "Amalfi," published in 1875. The lesson here: Be your own biggest fan.

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