Even if you don’t like to read Henry David Thoreau, or heaven forbid you don’t even know who he is – and every writer should know who he is – you will want to watch this video:
So, Mr. Thoreau wrote a marvel of a work simply titled, Walden. It is a classic and taught in most schools somewhere along a student’s journey, or at least it used to be. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the book Walden, Mr. Thoreau wrote the book in the mid 1800’s after he had spent some time living on land that his friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, owned. Mr. Emerson was a leading American essayist at the time and is also (or should be) well-read in schools throughout the world.
So, Mr. Thoreau apparently lived in a cabin on the property for two years, two months, and two days and from that experience and the observations he made during that time he produced the book Walden, a book which is a kind of cult classic among naturalists.
But the book itself is not what I’m so excited about. What I’m excited about is a digital reformatting project put together by the State University of New York at Geneseo. A brilliant and highly motivated team of professors, students and librarians at SUNY Geneseo have made not only the book but the author himself – or at least part of his writing process – available digitally in all its complexities.
The project, Digital Thoreau allows us to see the process of how Mr. Thoreau wrote over seven different manuscript versions of his book and how he was changing the book and how he wrote between 1846 and 1854.
At writer's conferences a familiar topic and question for writers is, “What is your writing process?” Well, through this amazing effort of digitizing Thoreau, we can get at least a glimpse into this important writer’s process. Do note that there are many, many different versions of illustrated and annotated copies of Walden on the market today because it has been required reading for so many years and for so many students, but if you want to connect with Mr. Thoreau’s many versions and his processes along the way, then the SUNY Geneseo’s project is the place to start. Here’s the link:
But do take a moment to watch this video at the site:
Who knows – you just might get inspired to write your own marvel that someday scholars will want to study in a way that this work is being studied.