Don’t you love it when you come across something or someone you should have known all your life, and this discovery starts opening all sorts of doors? Yesterday this happened when one of my sisters asked me if I had ever heard of a writer called Brenda Ueland. Apparently Ueland wrote a wonderful book called If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Ueland was born in 1891 and is said to have written more than six million words before she died at 93. I ended up downloading a kindle copy of her book (it’s on special at Amazon at the moment for $3.99) Amazon Brenda Ueland
Let me tell you I loved it, and I’m going to recommend it to all the students at my Sydney Writers Festival Workshop Skeletons & Dirty Linen Workshop and my six week Newtown Workshop (see previous post)
This is my favourite quote so far:
Here also is her summary of the most important ideas in her book.
Brenda Ueland’s 12 points to keep in mind while writing
- Know that you have talent, are original and have something important to say.
- Know that it is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.
- Write freely, recklessly, in first drafts.
- Tackle anything you want to- novels, plays, anything. Only remember Blake’s admonition: “Better to strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.”
- Don’t be afraid of writing bad stories. To discover what is wrong with a story write two new ones and then go back to it.
- Don’t fret or be ashamed of what you have written in the past. How I always suffered from this! How I would regurgitate out of my memory (and still do) some nauseous little lumps of things I had written! But don’t do this. Go on to the next. And fight against this tendency, which is much of it due not to splendid modesty, but a lack of self-respect. We are too ready (women especially) not to stand by what we have said or done. Often it is a way of forestalling criticism, saying hurriedly: “I know it is awful!” before anyone else does. Very bad and cowardly. It is so conceited and timid to be ashamed of one’s mistakes. Of course they are mistakes. Go on to the next.
- Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self.
- Don’t think of yourself as an intestinal tract and tangle of nerves in the skull, that will not work unless you drink coffee. Think of yourself as incandescent power, illuminated perhaps and forever talked to by God and His messengers. Remember how wonderful you are, what a miracle! Think if Tiffany’s made a mosquito, how wonderful we would think it was!
- If you are satisfied with what you write, that is a good sign. It means your vision can see so far that it is hard to come up to it. Again I say, the only unfortunate people are the glib ones, immediately satisfied with their work. To them the ocean is only knee-deep.
- When discouraged, remember what van Gogh said: “If you hear a voice within you saying: you are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working.”
- Don’t be afraid of yourself when you write. Don’t check-rein yourself. If you are afraid of being sentimental, say, for heaven’s sake be as sentimental as you can or feel like being! Then you’ll probably pass through to the other side and slough off sentimentality because you understand it at last and really don’t care about it.
- Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. “I will not Reason & Compare,” said Blake; “my business is to Create.” Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable.