Wednesday, December 23, 2009

~If You Want to Write~ but Painters, Musicians & Artist in General -Take Note Too

I am reading a wonderful book called If You Want to Write A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit written and first published in 1938 by author and teacher Brenda Ueland (1891-1985).

One of her primary premises is that to be human is to be talented because everybody who is human has something to express, and everybody is original and has something important to say if he tells the truth. "But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be."
(p. 4)

She sees creative power and imagination as very tender and sensitive and usually "drummed out of people" very early in life, and so she sets out to share and encourage the possibility of being blessed by using one's creative powers. In a foot note she writes:

"Whenever I say "writing" in this book I also mean anything that you love
and want to do or to make. It may be a six-act tragedy in blank verse, it
may be dressmaking or acrobatics, or inventing a new system of double entry
book-keeping. But you must be sure that your imagination and love
are behind it, that you are not working just from grim resolution, i.e., to make
money or impress people." (p.14)
She understands any creative work where the feelings imagination and intelligence are employed to have intrinsic value. Writing teaches the writer, stretches a person. "It has done you good." (p. 15), she wrote in her succinct way.
In addition to the much she learned over the years from her students, friends and writer contemporaries, she draws greatly upon the lives and work of Chekhov, William Blake, Vincent Van Gogh and Mozart.
Even though I'm just a few chapters into this book, I've enjoyed aspects of it so much it would feel selfish not to share of its existence and I'd like to hear from others who are already familiar with Ms. Ueland's work. I had never heard of her and just stumbled upon a used copy of the 1987 second edition from Graywolf Press. I've since noticed on Amazon that it's been republished again. It seems deigned to be a classic. I'll leave you with one of her definitions of art:

"But the moment I read Van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love (1) and enthusiasm for something, and
in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty
in things to others, by drawing it.

1Or it can be a feeling of hate and abhorrence too. through the work of the men who have worked from love
seems to be greater than those who have worked from
Well, I'm heading back to a little music, some exercise, my reading and writing and preparing for Christmas.

Happy Holidays to All



Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Jeannette-- I love that little book too. I have photocopied that first chapter in the past for my creative writing students...from the "everyone is talented, original, and has something to say" chapter. Easy to feel untalented in general, and Ueland's underlying generosity of spirit heals.

Lesley said...

Hi Jeannette and thank you for visiting my blog.

That sounds like a wonderful book.... one that my mother would enjoy reading.... and me too. :) I've always believed that creativity, no matter how it's expressed, brings happiness and contentment.

Happy Christmas!

evf said...


What a wonderful book. Thank you for taking the time to introduce it. That quote, "From his true self not the self he thinks he should be," addresses what I imagine to be one of the most difficult lessons for a writer--to trust one's true voice.

I am going to find this book. I can hardly wait for it to stop snowing.

And thank you for coming by my blog. I will be adding you to my blog roll.

Anonymous said...

I inclination not concur on it. I think nice post. Expressly the title attracted me to be familiar with the intact story.

Anonymous said...

Genial fill someone in on and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you on your information.

Jeannette said...

Dear Anonymous # 1 , Yes, I just gave you a little glimpse from the author's work, I hope enough of a glimpse for you to read more of the book.

And dear Anonymous #2, I admire those who learn to write in a second language and wonder if that might be part of your studies?

best wishes all around. Jeannette

debbie bailey said...

I've read many book on writing, but this one is, by far, my favorite. I love her concise, no nonsense manner of writing. It's one I'll be rereading ever so often.

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