A pep talk for writers – Brenda Ueland’s IF YOU WANT TO WRITE

Writing a novel can feel like slogging across a continent barefoot.  Fatigue sets in, followed by despair (i.e. “It’ll never end.”; “What’s the point?”; “I suck.”).

For those times when I feel like stopping the trek from idea to finished manuscript, I now turn to Brenda Ueland’s IF YOU WANT TO WRITE: A BOOK ABOUT ART, INDEPENDENCE AND SPIRIT (ISBN 0-915308-94-0).  Originally published in 1938, the book explores the psychological and creative aspects of the writing process.  I went looking for a copy of this book this summer after reading a brief excerpt of it in Juila Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY.

Ueland writes with verve and wit about the writing profession, and has much to say about the creative process as a writing teacher.  She also provides extensive quotes from William Blake and Vincent Van Gogh on their creative methods.

Reading her makes me feel like grabbing my laptop and writing then and there.

Here’s a quote from Chapter II:

I want to assure you with all earnestness, that no writing is a waste of time,–no creative work where the feelings, imagination, the intelligence must work.  With every sentence you write, you have learned something.  It has done you good.  It has stretched your understanding.

And for those struggling to find their “voice” as a writer, she has helpful advice to give in Chapter XI:

The only way to find your true self is by recklessness and freedom.  If you feel like a murderer for the time being, write like one.  In fact, when you are in a fury it is a wonderful time to write.  It will be brilliant,–provided you write about what you are furious at, and not some dutiful literary bilge.

Ueland had a successful career as freelance writer, and was knighted in Norway for her coverage of the treason trials of Vidkun Quisling.  A friend, Carl Sandburg, considered this the best book on writing when it came out in 1938.

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