I first heard of Brenda Ueland and her book If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit, a few years ago and bought it. While I read the other other how-to-write books from women authors -Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones , Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way – this one got left behind. I was determined to read it in March and share it as the March Book Review for the Write Tribe Book Reading Challenge. Although I read it, the review got delayed. My apologies.
If You Want To Write :
A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
If You Want To Write was first published in 1938. In this book, she shares her philosophies on writing and life in general. She stresses the idea that “Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say.” Drawing heavily on the work and influence of William Blake, she suggests that writers should “Try to discover your true, honest, un-theoretical self.” She sums up her book with 12 points to keep in mind while writing.
“The best book ever written about how to write.”Carl Sandburg
Quotes from If You Want To Write
“No writing is a waste of time – no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good.”
“Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.”
We have come to think that duty should come first. I disagree. Duty should be a by-product. Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first – at least, for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.”
“At least I understood that writing was this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it.”
Brenda Ueland was a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing.
Ueland was raised in a relatively progressive household; her father, an immigrant from Norway, was a prominent lawyer and judge. Her mother was a suffragette and served as the first president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. Ueland would spend her life as a staunch feminist
Born on October 24, 1891, to Andreas and Clara Hampson Ueland; the third of seven children. She attended Wells and Barnard colleges and received her baccalaureate from Barnard in 1913.
After college, she cut her teeth in journalism as the first female reporter at the Minneapolis Tribune, then returned to New York to continue a career in writing that would sustain her from that point forward. She enjoyed the bohemian life in Greenwich Village; she married and had a daughter, Gabrielle; but after a decade with her husband, she divorced him. For years she supported herself and Gabrielle with her writing. She eventually returned to Minneapolis, where she would continue to write and also taught writing classes, an experience that shaped the ideas gathered in If You Want to Write, where several samples of her students’ work appear. She would marry and divorce twice more.
Review 4.5/ 5
Brenda Ueland is said to have lived by two rules that she followed absolutely: to tell the truth, and not to do anything she didn’t want to do.
Her integrity shines throughout If You Want to Write, her best-selling classic on the process of writing that has already inspired thousands to find their own creative self.
What came through for me from this book is the need to keep writing and do it authentically. Also, as in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, the whole concept of the link between spirituality and creativity is brought out in this book.
You get an idea of the tone of this book from some of the chapter titles:
- Everybody is Talented, Original and Has Something Important to Say”
- “Be Careless, Reckless! Be a Lion, Be a Pirate, When You Write”
- “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing”
As Ueland herself says, that when she is talking about ‘writing’ she means anything creative. As you read, you are encouraged to look deep within yourself and express yourself more through whatever form of creativity you feel called to.
This book left me feeling inspired to be more creative.
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