If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555974718
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 06/26/2007
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 180
Sales rank: 333,275
Product dimensions: 5.24(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.54(d)

About the Author

BRENDA UELAND (1891–1985) spent many years living in New York, where she was part of the Greenwich Village bohemian crowd. She received an international swimming record for over-eighty-year-olds and was knighted by the King of Norway.

Read an Excerpt

If You Want to Write

A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
By Brenda Ueland

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 1987 Estate of Brenda Ueland
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-260-8

Chapter One

Yes, it has made me like working to see that writing is not a performance but a generosity.

I find that I wrote this to someone three years ago:

"Forgive me, but perhaps you should write again. I think there is something necessary and life-giving about 'creative work' (forgive the term). A state of excitement. And it is like a faucet: nothing comes unless you turn it on, and the more you turn it on, the more comes.

"It is our nasty twentieth century materialism that makes us feel: what is the use of writing, painting, etc., unless one has an audience or gets cash for it? Socrates and the men of the Renaissance did so much because the rewards were intrinsic, i.e., the enlargement of the soul.

"Yes, we are all thoroughly materialistic about such things. 'What's the use?' we say, of doing anything unless you make money or get applause? for when a man is dead he is dead.' Socrates and the Greeks decided that a man's life should be devoted to 'the tendance of the Soul' (Soul included intelligence, imagination, spirit, understanding, personality) for the soul lived eternally, in all probability.

"I think it is all right to work for money, to work to have things enjoyed by people, even very limited ones; but the mistake is to feel that the work, the effort, the search is not the important and the exciting thing. One cannot strive to write a cheap, popular story without learning more about cheapness. But enough. I may very well be getting to raving."

And so now I have established reasons why you should work from now on until you die, with real love and imagination and intelligence, at your writing or whatever work it is that you care about. If you do that, out of the mountains that you write some mole hills will be published. Or you may make a fortune and win the Nobel Prize. But if nothing is ever published at all and you never make a cent, just the same it will be good that you have worked.



Excerpted from If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland Copyright © 1987 by Estate of Brenda Ueland. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Brenda Ueland's Wings Shop by Andrei Codrescu,
Preface, 1983 by Brenda Ueland,
I. Everybody Is Talented, Original and Has Something Important to Say,
II. "Imagination Is the Divine Body in Every Man" — William Blake,
III. Why a Renaissance Nobleman Wrote Sonnets,
IV. The Imagination Works Slowly and Quietly,
V. "Sooner Strangle an Infant in Its Cradle Than Nurse Unacted Desires" — William Blake,
VII. Be Careless, Reckless! Be a Lion! Be a Pirate! When You Write,
VIII. Why You Are Not to Be Discouraged, Annihilated, by Rejection Slips,
IX. People Confuse the Human and the Divine Ego,
X. Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing,
XI. Microscopic Truthfulness,
XII. Art Is Infection,
XIII. The Third Dimension,
XIV. Keep a Slovenly, Headlong, Impulsive, Honest Diary,
XV. You Do Not Know What Is in You — an Inexhaustible Fountain of Ideas,
XVI. On Using the Imagination,
XVII. "The Tigers of Wrath Are Wiser Than the Horses of Instruction" — William Blake,
XVIII. "He Whose Face Gives No Light Shall Never Become a Star" — William Blake,

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If You Want To Write 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Andy_Thornton More than 1 year ago
I love this book, it's very inspirational and has induced me to write again. Writing has become a joy and not a chore and I hate the times when I don't get to write. This book is a must read for anyone who feels they need to be more creative and self doubt holds you back.
Mrs_Gilpin More than 1 year ago
I checked out this book from my local library and bought my own version right after I returned it. It may have been published in the 30's but you would be silly to dismiss a good read just because it is old. Inspiration is never outdated.
MKM11 More than 1 year ago
The author, a lifelong writer, journalist, and writing teacher, has written a cheerleading book on how to find your authentic voice as a writer, and, by extension, how to live an authentic life in whatever you do. But I found her style annoying, repetitive, disjointed, and surprisingly unengaging. Occasional sparks of erudition emerge here and there. But one can get the essence of the book by reading its final few pages.
Alyssa2010 More than 1 year ago
I first read this enthralling book in a creative writing class at Texas A&M University. As it was a required text, I had little hope that it would be applicable to more than my personal writing skills. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by the author's unique musings on not only writing, but on life. Ueland does not bore the reader with stale writing exercises; instead she urges the reader to become 'idle' by taking the time to let thoughts flow freely and form completely. She explains that without this 'idle' thought process one's writing will be bland and meaningless. She insist that everyone has a story to tell, which she demonstrates through excerpts from her students' writings. She describes in detail what she believes to be the imagination, as well as what she believes stifles it. The entire book is a series of Ueland's creative perspectives, which I found captivating. I will reference this book in the future not only when writing, but also when searching for ways I can become more passionate about life.
Jess88sanmiguel More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the textbooks required for my ENGL 235 creative writing class. The more I read it the more I become inspired to be a better writer. To try harder in the way I live my life and to have an outlook on life that inspires people. Brenda Ueland manages to convey, in writing, all the necessary tools one most posses to become a well rounded and well respected writer. I would read this book even if I had no desire to be a writer because her writing is just pure inspiration for everyday life. It is a great book and I applaud my professor for recommending such a book.
Neale on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I couldn't finish it. For a book on writing, it was very badly written. The footnotes were a distraction. The sentences were badly constructed. For example writes that she may tell you something later in the book - doesn't she know what's in her book?
Daniel.Estes on LibraryThing 7 months ago
If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland begins with some of the most honest and inspirational passages I've ever read - every word comes straight from the heart and speaking directly to you. I was having a kind of religious experience and looking forward to more. And then, once the author begins reviewing long passages by her students, the book loses momentum. The tone and writing are still true to form, but it just somehow feels overlong after awhile.The overarching theme of unleashing your creative spirit does come around by the end even though it lacks the magic from the beginning. I recommended this reading for any artist who has ever doubted her own ability.
Jenners26 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a book that all writers ¿ professional and amateurs ¿ should keep and revisit every once in a while. Ueland is like a really supportive and generous friend who coaches you in finding the writer within you and letting go of the fears and insecurities that are holding you back. Like the other books on writing, it is not just about writing but being an authentic and creative person. At the heart of the book is the simple edict: A writer must write. It doesn¿t get any simpler (or harder) than that!
skiegazer3 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Her introduction was a bit of a turn-off (too much self-congratulations on writing such a fantastic book) and at times the text reads a bit too much like a rambling (albeit interesting) monologue... But despite that, her advice on freeing up the creative mind and having the nerve to be bold is good and helpful, and some of her stories and quotes are amusing and inspiring.
shawnd on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is hard to categorize and perhaps even magical. It is one part Marianne Williamson, one part 'What Color is Your Parachute', and one part teaching notes from the leader of a writing seminar. The reader is nudged to ask many questions of themselves. As the book progresses, more and more of it is tactical and inspired advice about how to write and how not to. Some of this is general, and much of it is tied to what the potential writer's personality is, energy is, and tied back to spiritual truisms (e.g. "Now this is an inevitable truth: whatever you write will reveal your personality, and whatever you are will show through in your writing). I am not a writer. And the book didn't essentially make me want to be one, even though I have thought it an option--in some way it perhaps cemented that I should not be writing. That said, I feel like this book is just as much a guide to life and releasing/messaging one's real voice and becoming on the outside the expression of what one is on the inside.
detailmuse on LibraryThing 8 months ago
First published in 1938, If You Want To Write presents the philosophy of writing (indeed, of all creativity) that Brenda Ueland taught for many years at the Minneapolis YWCA. The title of the first chapter presents her premise: ¿Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say,¿ and subsequent chapters guide readers in how to tease out their own talent and originality so that it ¿infects¿ readers. Though her details do evoke the 1930s, her observations of human nature remain spot-on to 2008.Ueland¿s message is encouraging and inspirational and true. My quibbles concern aspects of the book¿s editing (non-editing?). First, the punctuation and formatting (extra and omitted commas; footnotes) interfered with my reading and I had to re-read numerous sentences to make sense of them. Second, Ueland tends to introduce a topic but then note that she¿ll deal with it later; I didn¿t keep track of what she was postponing, but did keep wondering whether she ever got back to all of it. Overall, the writing has a somewhat sloggy (first-draft) feel rather than that of a tightened manuscript.In the genre, I'd instead recommend: Anne Lamott¿s fabulous Bird by Bird; Dorothea Brande¿s Becoming a Writer (also pubbed in the 1930s); and John Gardner¿s On Becoming a Novelist.
kay135 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a book I choose to read over and over. This is the book that first catapaulted me into writing. It fed my head.
tgraettinger on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is an unusual book - it always made me feel good to read even just a little bit of it. The author is very encouraging about the inner creativity that is within all of us. We just need to bring it out. She talks about bringing out the true self in your writing, drawing or whatever you might be creating. I want to bring that positive feeling to my work and my life. To try. To strive. To work. To encourage myself and others. To work not for fame or wealth, but to work for my own sake, for me. And, I'm inspired to be a better person, someone who will truly love and share in all I do.
a211423 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is one of the most inspirational books on writing I have ever read. If you are a beginning writer, you will delight in her humor, philosophy, and teaching style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned a lot from this book. It's wonderful. Brenda's voice shines through the pages so vividly, I feel I heard her rather than read. Wish she was still alive, I'd love to contact her.
7678451 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book!! Very good advice! I've always wanted to write a book and this book has given me the confidence to do it!! And I'm loving the process and I'm learning so much!! Not only great writing advice but great advice for life regarding being yourself!!
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janett0 More than 1 year ago
Brenda Ueland’s book: If You Want to Write, supports reality writing. From pupils thoughts, adventures, failures, rages, villainies and nobilities; they’re encouraged to write what is seen, for their writing to come alive through description. Creativity is directed with the technique of first understanding what is learned instantly. Or by linking following contemplation to understand the first at that time. This allows working creative power to flow and reinforce without time consuming repetition. She gives different examples of this process, and when to notice different ideas. She advises writing (as in drafts) and then knowing what is needed to change, adapt, cut, and expand a story. She increases creativity and imagination without boundaries, in examples of herself and students. Her technique can help in the writing exchange with readers. From awareness in writing to publishing a book she explains how not to be daunted by the written expression of others.
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