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

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In her 93 remarkable years, Brenda Ueland published six million words. She said she had two rules 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 center. Carl Sandbu In her 93 remarkable years, Brenda Ueland published six million words. She said she had two rules 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 center. Carl Sandburg called this book "The best book ever written about how to write." Yet Ueland reminds us that "Whenever I say 'writing' in this book, I also mean anything that you love and want to do or to make." Ueland's writing and her teaching are made compelling by her feisty spirit of independence and joy.


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In her 93 remarkable years, Brenda Ueland published six million words. She said she had two rules 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 center. Carl Sandbu In her 93 remarkable years, Brenda Ueland published six million words. She said she had two rules 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 center. Carl Sandburg called this book "The best book ever written about how to write." Yet Ueland reminds us that "Whenever I say 'writing' in this book, I also mean anything that you love and want to do or to make." Ueland's writing and her teaching are made compelling by her feisty spirit of independence and joy.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    If you want to read a good book about writing, don't read this one. Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Read On Writing by Stephen King. Read anything else, really. The redeeming factors of this book were: 1. It was short(!), and 2. It made me realize that Van Gogh was kind of a badass, and I'll probably go out of my way to learn more about him. Onto the not-so redeeming factors...! 1. I have a huge, nagging suspicion that Ms. Ueland is not a very good reader. One of the things that makes me long t If you want to read a good book about writing, don't read this one. Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Read On Writing by Stephen King. Read anything else, really. The redeeming factors of this book were: 1. It was short(!), and 2. It made me realize that Van Gogh was kind of a badass, and I'll probably go out of my way to learn more about him. Onto the not-so redeeming factors...! 1. I have a huge, nagging suspicion that Ms. Ueland is not a very good reader. One of the things that makes me long to write and write well is how much I enjoy reading. She does not like Dickens. She does not like F. Scott Fitzgerald. She thinks that a lot of people "read to waste time" and "be entertained." The lengths she went to to put in these tidbits of information made me blatantly dislike her. Just because you find reading "entertaining" or you read something that may not be heralded as literature, does not mean that you can't get something worthwhile and meaningful from it. It makes me want to retreat into a cozy little corner with some tea and Stephen King. In On Writing, he tells it like it is: If you want to be a writer, and you're not writing at that exact moment-- the next best thing you can and should be doing is READING. And he doesn't discriminate. Read anything! I agree with that sentiment. Even reading filth is going to teach you something about not writing filth. So read. Read Dickens. Read F. Scott Fitzgerald. Read to waste time and be entertained. Girl just pushed my buttons, to be honest. She's a bit of a priggish snot about Fitzgerald, Dickens, and books that don't meet her exact literary standards, and it irks me. 2. This is my very personal opinion and I certainly respect others' right to disagree with it, but -- for me -- I would have liked her to cut at least A THIRD of her references to God and Christianity. Anne Lamott briefly mentions God/religion/spirituality in Bird by Bird, but she does it in a way that's unobtrusive and doesn't make the reading any less accessible to people of different faiths, beliefs, mindsets, etc. I think religion is a very personal thing, and -- if you're trying to reach as many people as possible -- I think it's always safe to keep it vague or to a minimum. 3. I'm not sure whether to say this or not. Or how to say it, really. She encourages people to write-- even if it seems simple or conversational. She encourages people to write what's on their minds -- to get to the truth of matters -- instead of obsessively polishing writing to the detriment of its original intent/meaning. Makes sense. I'm on board. HOWEVER, the author spews out all of this writing and life advice and, well, I don't think she's a great writer. I don't think there's anything particularly masterful about her style. She doesn't write lyrically (she admits that), but she doesn't write bluntly and truthfully either. Her writing style isn't concise. It's not funny. It's not unique. It's not my thing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    PhilorChelsy

    If you want to Write, or do ANYthing you are passionate about...draw, paint, teach, imagine, create...this book inspires. I even had to blog it (www.burnah.blogspot.com) To really remember it, I want to put it down here: My favorite word in the book: "Waggish" Meaning fanciful, whimsy, silly. Some favorite quotes: "Van Gogh said: "If you hear a voice within you saying: you are not painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working." "the creative impluse of V If you want to Write, or do ANYthing you are passionate about...draw, paint, teach, imagine, create...this book inspires. I even had to blog it (www.burnah.blogspot.com) To really remember it, I want to put it down here: My favorite word in the book: "Waggish" Meaning fanciful, whimsy, silly. Some favorite quotes: "Van Gogh said: "If you hear a voice within you saying: you are not painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working." "the creative impluse of Van Gogh, a great genius, was simply loving what he saw and then wanting to share it with others, not for the purpose of showing off, but out of generosity." "If it is true to you, it is true. Another truth may take it's place later. What comes truly from me is true, whether anybody believes it or not. It is my truth....later if you find what you wrote isn't true, accept the new truth." "...for what is true to you today may not be true at all tomorrow, because you see a better truth." "He knows himself greatly who never opposes his genius." (William Blake) "Conceit is....a static state where you rest on some past (or fancied) accomplishment....But self-confidence never rests, but is always working and striving, and it is always modest and grateful and open to what is new and better." "...if you want your children to be musicians, then work at music yourself, seriously and with all your intelligence. If you want them to be scholars, study hard yourself. If you want them to be honest, be honest yourself." "...women who do too much house work should neglect it for their writing" [art, music, etc] :) hehe "...how do these creative thoughts come? They come in a slow way. It is the little bomb of revelation bursting inside of you...."I see, I understand that now!" and a feeling of happiness." "...in time he even may come to understand what Christ did....how if one is great and imaginative enough one can honor and love people with all their limitations." "...the true self, the imagination, or the Holy Ghost, or the Conscience. It is what is always searching in us and trying to free what we really think, from what we think we ought to think..." "Now this creative power I think is the Holy Ghost....William Blake called this creative power the Imagination, and he said it was God." "Now Blake thought this creative power should be kept alive in all people for all of their lives. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the Spirit." "writing [or art, music, photography, inspiration] is 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. If they did not--fine. They did not need to listen. That was all right too." "van Gogh wrote..."I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people." "Yes, I am against all anxiety, worry. There are many people, you can see, who consider worry a kind of duty. Back of this I think it is the subconscious feeling that Fate or God is mean or resentful or tetchy and that if we do not worry enough we will certainly catch it from Him. But they should remember that Christ said that we should cast off anxiety so that we could "seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness" (i.e., live creatively, greatly, seekingly, in the present) "and all these things" (beauty, happiness, goodness, talent, food, and clothing) "will be added unto you." Of course He is right."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    I first read this book when I was 13, so I can't vouch for how useful it might be to an adult reader. All I know is that no book has changed my life as dramatically as this one did when I was 13. I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that this book has the power to cure minor mental disorders and to help you find direction in your life. Reading this book was like one long epiphany for me. It is an energizing read, written in simple, clear, vivacious prose by a woman without a shred of pompos I first read this book when I was 13, so I can't vouch for how useful it might be to an adult reader. All I know is that no book has changed my life as dramatically as this one did when I was 13. I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that this book has the power to cure minor mental disorders and to help you find direction in your life. Reading this book was like one long epiphany for me. It is an energizing read, written in simple, clear, vivacious prose by a woman without a shred of pomposity but with fierce, passionate beliefs about art and individualism, a la William Blake. Looking at this book from a more detached perspective, I think Ueland could justly be viewed as a proponent of American Romanticism, a scion of the nature-based (as opposed to nurture-based, or formal-education-based) philosophical tradition that gave us greats like Whitman and Thoreau and e.e. cummings. If you liked "Walden," you'll almost definitely love this book. It's quite a bit like "Walden" in spirit, actually, except that its scope is somewhat narrower and it's less self-righteous and significantly easier to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Reisz

    For a book published in 1938, this book was shockingly progressive. Everyone has their own unique writing voice. Everyone has their own truth to tell. Women should shut the door on their kids and write. Women should pursue their creative impulses instead of being tethered to the idea of being the perfect wife and mother...great stuff here. Some dated content as you can imagine from a book from 1938 but if you separate the wheat from the chaff, you get a lot of delicious wheat here. I'll be using For a book published in 1938, this book was shockingly progressive. Everyone has their own unique writing voice. Everyone has their own truth to tell. Women should shut the door on their kids and write. Women should pursue their creative impulses instead of being tethered to the idea of being the perfect wife and mother...great stuff here. Some dated content as you can imagine from a book from 1938 but if you separate the wheat from the chaff, you get a lot of delicious wheat here. I'll be using a lot of her writing instruction ideas in my own writing classes. “In fact that is why the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why wives are so splendid -- because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them! But inwardly women know that something is wrong. They sense that if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable. But you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. [...]"If you would shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say; 'Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!' you would be surprised how they would respect you. They would probably all become playwrights.” “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.” “By encouraging the critic in themselves (the hater) they have killed the artist (the lover).” “I want to assure you with all earnestness that 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.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sally Maria

    I had to read the book Carl Sandburg said was the best book ever on writing. The poem that came: If You Want To Write* For Brenda Ueland (1891-1985) I found you in a box, broken now, mildewed, packed with the crème, books read in college barely recollected, dog eared pages, notes in tea-stained margins, a badge of honor for any author. I would have set you aside, dismissed you as self-help, thought you antiquated, Book of the month, had he not spoken of you with reverence, perhaps even awe, this scientist to whom I had to read the book Carl Sandburg said was the best book ever on writing. The poem that came: If You Want To Write* For Brenda Ueland (1891-1985) I found you in a box, broken now, mildewed, packed with the crème, books read in college barely recollected, dog eared pages, notes in tea-stained margins, a badge of honor for any author. I would have set you aside, dismissed you as self-help, thought you antiquated, Book of the month, had he not spoken of you with reverence, perhaps even awe, this scientist to whom all things must be proven. I ate your words as if I were starving, this book, less about writing than living or God, the real God, God forgotten. How I wish you had been my teacher who would have emblazoned TRUTH in the middle of my forehead. We would have exchanged letters I couldn’t wait to open, they would be saved, tied with white ribbon, put in a box I would carry forever, mildewed, sacred. *If you Want to Write: A book about art, independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland, 1938

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I have read this book every couple of years since I was a teenager. I gave it to my Dad to read and he loved it, and said it was so hard to get through because every line was true and made you sit there in awe wondering about your life. I think it's true you have to forget the blahness of similarly titled books and know this book is as much about how to live as how to write. This author wrote it in 1932 or so, and lived to be an octegenarian swimmer. She constantly quotes Keats, Blake, Dostoevsk I have read this book every couple of years since I was a teenager. I gave it to my Dad to read and he loved it, and said it was so hard to get through because every line was true and made you sit there in awe wondering about your life. I think it's true you have to forget the blahness of similarly titled books and know this book is as much about how to live as how to write. This author wrote it in 1932 or so, and lived to be an octegenarian swimmer. She constantly quotes Keats, Blake, Dostoevsky, Chekov, etc. as if they are flowing in her veins or perhaps under her feet. Anyone I've met who read it said, oh yes, they too read it every few years. So get one!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I never had any aspirations of becoming a writer. Writing, to me, was not enjoyable. I did not feel freed, or accomplished, and as though I had created a piece of art when I got done writing a paper. Papers were written for the sole purpose of impressing the teacher and getting a good grade. Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit completely changed my notion about writing. It made me understand that writing, or painting, acting or whatever else you want t I never had any aspirations of becoming a writer. Writing, to me, was not enjoyable. I did not feel freed, or accomplished, and as though I had created a piece of art when I got done writing a paper. Papers were written for the sole purpose of impressing the teacher and getting a good grade. Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit completely changed my notion about writing. It made me understand that writing, or painting, acting or whatever else you want to do, does not have to be drudgery. Ueland has showed me, that only if you let your creativity flow freely, without being imprisoned by any rules and restrictions, can you break free and create something true, something interesting. In the first chapter of her book Ueland declares, “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say” (3). And this is so very true; you might just not know it yet. Only if you say what you truly mean, is what you write going to be a success. This book has taught me to fully rely on my instincts when writing, or doing anything else for that matter. In the words of Brenda Ueland, “art must be truly felt and cannot be willed” (107). After reading this book, writing papers seemed to become a bit easier. I had to start thinking of “telling a story, not of writing it” (93). Keeping that in mind, ideas come to me more easily. I do not feel caged in anymore. Every student should read this book because it helps to understand that there is so much more to writing than the grammar, rules, and formats the English teachers forced into our heads. Another thing that is great about this book is that Ueland never tells the reader he has to do anything. No, she purely speaks from experience and explains to the reader how she had to teach herself to let go, and free herself of all inhibitions. There are no rules in her book, only suggestions as to how to free your creative spirit. While reading the book, you can tell how much Ueland believes in what she has written. If You Want to Write A Book about Art, Independence and SpiritBrenda Ueland

  8. 4 out of 5

    christina

    This is by far and away the best book I have ever read on writing, and I have read a number of them. Her approach is one of pure enthusiasm and letting go of your notions of writing "well" or worrying about your "style", instead she advocates tapping into what is true and genuine for you and just putting the words on paper, and seeing what happens. I plan on purchasing her fictional and memoir books, and re-reading parts of this book for inspiration for a long time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Darek

    First of all - English is my second language, I am deeply sorry for my mistakes. --- It's hard to describe my disappointment with Ueland's book. What a waste of time and money. It is so short, yet so painfully monotonous, filled with long excerpts taken from diaries and letters of few famous artists (mostly van Gogh, Blake and "Great Russians") and pupils from Ueland's writing class. While the author often mocks the great writers that she personally dislikes (Steinbeck? Scott Fitzgerald, seriously? First of all - English is my second language, I am deeply sorry for my mistakes. --- It's hard to describe my disappointment with Ueland's book. What a waste of time and money. It is so short, yet so painfully monotonous, filled with long excerpts taken from diaries and letters of few famous artists (mostly van Gogh, Blake and "Great Russians") and pupils from Ueland's writing class. While the author often mocks the great writers that she personally dislikes (Steinbeck? Scott Fitzgerald, seriously?), her own style is desperately dull and non-inventive. Not to mention useless tirades full of Coelho'esque esoteric cliches and countless references to God and Christianity. What really irritated me was the contrast between her (self-proclaimed) modesty and frequent, mean attacks against everyone, who does not blindly flow with his or her emotions and contempt for everyone, who dares to think critically (her advice for a man that brought up his kids in rational atmosphere - "I think he might as well have taken them out in the backyard and killed them with an ax"). All these tendencies culminate in the Chapter XVII, which basically encourages all people to become compulsive writers and just fill the world with nonsensical flood of words. In the last paragraphs Ueland expresses her conviction, that emotions (unlike arguments and facts) are always a great positive force. I simply can not agree with that - many mass murderers and tyrants considered themselves artists, without reason and moral introspection art can be a great destructive force, too! Ueland finishes with following words : "I believe this book will hasten the Millenium by two or three hundreds years". So much for her modesty, I guess.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Polly

    "This book should be a great help in the freeing of your thoughts and the genius that is in all of us." Great opener, eh? I believe in Ueland's thesis that: "everybody is talented, original and has something important to say." I also believe, as she does, that "this creative power I think is the Holy Ghost." She further thinks that most creativity is "drummed out of people early in life by criticism." I think her philosophy applies to any creative process (wood working, gardening, painting, quil "This book should be a great help in the freeing of your thoughts and the genius that is in all of us." Great opener, eh? I believe in Ueland's thesis that: "everybody is talented, original and has something important to say." I also believe, as she does, that "this creative power I think is the Holy Ghost." She further thinks that most creativity is "drummed out of people early in life by criticism." I think her philosophy applies to any creative process (wood working, gardening, painting, quilting, etc.--anything you love, really). She wrote this book in 1938, and she died in 1985 at age 93. She believed in long walks (as healthy and also to show respect for this earth) and deep listening (to show love to those around us), and I find her a wonderful role model. Her book is partly warm reassurance, and partly a kick in the pants. Other favorite quotes: "everyone is ashamed and hang-dog about showing the slightest enthusiasm or passion or sincere feeling about anything." "Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself." "Resign yourself tranquilly to doing something slow and worthless for at least an hour." "work hard and with gumption at something you love and care for and think is important."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Leviton

    I'm only 25% through this book and it's the most moving thing ever. She talks a lot about the general fraudulence and darkness in the world of art and art appreciation that reallly gets me down a lot and she's very comforting and wise about the heartbreak of that stuff as well as figuring out how to get past it. It's killing me, it's so good. And I can't believe how modern it feels; it was written in 1938! This woman writes about this sort of fraudulence and art-for-money or art-for-fame attitud I'm only 25% through this book and it's the most moving thing ever. She talks a lot about the general fraudulence and darkness in the world of art and art appreciation that reallly gets me down a lot and she's very comforting and wise about the heartbreak of that stuff as well as figuring out how to get past it. It's killing me, it's so good. And I can't believe how modern it feels; it was written in 1938! This woman writes about this sort of fraudulence and art-for-money or art-for-fame attitudes without even seeing all the obscene stupidities that we have from the last 70 years! I can't believe she already felt this way in 1938!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nat

    I'm going to go against the crowd here. I liked the book. However, it was not as life changing for me as it was for the many who have read it. This would have made a good pamphlet or even blog post. Why? It's repetitious. I do agree with Brenda Ueland's theory that writing (or any type of creative work) must be true to yourself. It's always your own voice that comes out the best in whatever you do. I also agree with her assessment of critics. What really do they know? I cannot think of one critic I'm going to go against the crowd here. I liked the book. However, it was not as life changing for me as it was for the many who have read it. This would have made a good pamphlet or even blog post. Why? It's repetitious. I do agree with Brenda Ueland's theory that writing (or any type of creative work) must be true to yourself. It's always your own voice that comes out the best in whatever you do. I also agree with her assessment of critics. What really do they know? I cannot think of one critic who has written a phenomenal book, but I can think of numerous authors who have made good critics. I would take a recommended reading list from an author over a critic any day. Positive encouragement and finding your own structure are things that are sorely lacking in our literary and educational circles today. It was a little bit of a shock to me that she recognized this in the 1920s and 1930s. Some things never change. Well, I may be wrong there. In some ways I think we are too positive and self-affirming in teaching others. (Think children's soccer games where everyone wins.) But repeating what I said earlier (yes, I see what I did there), the author could have stopped after the first couple of chapters. The rest are all affirmations of her thesis. Still it's one of the better "how to write,"...er, "how to be creative" works I've read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Constantly, I fall into reading books about writing without having read any other book by the author (John Gardner, Stephen King, and now Brenda Ueland, to name a few off the top of my head). I won't mince words, I really like reading books about writing, not for "tips and tricks" or secrets, but to catch some of the light coming off of the authors, some little shards of passion, and also to see what drives other writers to, well, write. I loved the books on writing that I read by both of the af Constantly, I fall into reading books about writing without having read any other book by the author (John Gardner, Stephen King, and now Brenda Ueland, to name a few off the top of my head). I won't mince words, I really like reading books about writing, not for "tips and tricks" or secrets, but to catch some of the light coming off of the authors, some little shards of passion, and also to see what drives other writers to, well, write. I loved the books on writing that I read by both of the aforementioned authors as well, On Becoming a Novelist and On Writing, and while I definitely would recommend both books, If You Want to Write presents itself as just as inspiring and helpful, if not more so. In this book, Brenda writes about the origin of Inspiration and some of the things that will stifle it, a lot of things in fact. But "getting inspiration" to write is not such a big deal after all. So often it seems like people are waiting for the fabled Lightning Bolt of Inspiration, when, Brenda says, all they really need is to invite the inspiration by positioning yourself intentionally and it will come. Not Lightning-Bolt style, but slowly. Where some books on writing talk about writing and it's all very delightful but there isn't a whole lot you can do besides get caught up in the excitement and then sit down only to find it didn't really affect your writing "ability," If You Want to Write is more practical. Brenda sits down with you and says yes, you can write wonderful things and true things, unique things because you are unique and your inner self knows what if true if you let it speak. The encouragement and insight poured out in this little book have not been Inspiration, but have shown me how to find my own Inspiration, and that is a gift that won't change or fade.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ada

    I found something in this book that I lost several years ago. I am so happy to have found inspiration from Brenda to finally follow through with my dreams. The last sentence in this book is as follows, "And if it has given you the impulse to write one small story, then I am pleased." I have rediscovered my voice and started writing again all because of the guidance that this book offered me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    A quote from the Preface to Second Edition: "At that time when I was writing the book, Carl Sandburg, an old friend, was at our house. Sometimes, looking out at Lake Calhoun in the cold November evening, he would begin to thunder in his mighty voice (so much like Isaiah's, I used to think) about the wild grey waves, the North wind, the new moon, the gunmetal sky. He liked the book. He said: 'That is the best book ever written about how to write.'" I agree... Brenda Ueland, YOU ROCK!!! (And this bo A quote from the Preface to Second Edition: "At that time when I was writing the book, Carl Sandburg, an old friend, was at our house. Sometimes, looking out at Lake Calhoun in the cold November evening, he would begin to thunder in his mighty voice (so much like Isaiah's, I used to think) about the wild grey waves, the North wind, the new moon, the gunmetal sky. He liked the book. He said: 'That is the best book ever written about how to write.'" I agree... Brenda Ueland, YOU ROCK!!! (And this book was published in 1938). Never have I felt so close to an author's writing, I would choose to have tea with her over almost anyone in history. This lady is a visionary so far reaching, it touched me incredibly. To end with another quote from Ueland, the last three paragraphs of the book which explain that she feels she is far reaching as well: "And why should you do all these things? Why should we all use our creative power and write or paint or play music, or whatever it tells us to do? "Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know the Truth or Beauty is to try to express it. And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others? "And so I really believe this book will hasten the Millennium by two or three hundred years. And if it has given you the impulse to write one small story, then I am pleased."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    A simple little book, formatted for the Kindle and republished, put up for free one time, and I downloaded it since I compulsively collect books about writing. Not the How-to of writing dialogue or description or plot-outlining, but books about the real art of writing, the truth of it, the flow of creativity that so easily gets blocked. Ueland's book is one of those gems I treasure, to read over and over, because just reading a page or two will open the desire to work, give me the confidence to A simple little book, formatted for the Kindle and republished, put up for free one time, and I downloaded it since I compulsively collect books about writing. Not the How-to of writing dialogue or description or plot-outlining, but books about the real art of writing, the truth of it, the flow of creativity that so easily gets blocked. Ueland's book is one of those gems I treasure, to read over and over, because just reading a page or two will open the desire to work, give me the confidence to simply put the words down. It's a brilliant book, and although some of the language is strange-sounding to our 21st century sentimentality, it gets to the essence of what every writer needs to hear: You can do it. Write what is true. Write what you see. Ignore the critics and the mockers and the correctors and just work. Do the work of a writer. Reviewers who criticize Ueland for bringing in God and religion into her work are exactly the kind of critics she tells us to ignore. She has no use for people who write to be popular, or to please the critics, or to sell a million books. What she encourages the individual to do is to write from the heart, what they see, what they feel, and to ignore the outside pressures to conform to the standard of the day. Her book may not please our 21st century tendency to not offend anyone. She was writing from her heart, and to share her vision of what art is, and how the writer can create freely. To create art, not to win fans.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This is the holy grail of creativity. I read many books about creative people's lives, hoping to glean some knowledge and inspiration. This book is the motherload, the culmination............The author is a writer as well as a teacher, which gives her the birds eye view as well as being a layperson in this field. Although her subject is creativity and imagination in writing, I find that substituting "music" or even just "creativity" for "writing", this book applies whatever field you need it to. This is the holy grail of creativity. I read many books about creative people's lives, hoping to glean some knowledge and inspiration. This book is the motherload, the culmination............The author is a writer as well as a teacher, which gives her the birds eye view as well as being a layperson in this field. Although her subject is creativity and imagination in writing, I find that substituting "music" or even just "creativity" for "writing", this book applies whatever field you need it to. At the end of her book, she provides a summary list of her main points; they are simple yet fucking insightful list. Here are just a few. 1. Know that you have talent, are original and have something important to say 2. 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 privlege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxiousw vanity and fear of failure. 3. [Create] freely, recklessly, in first drafts. 10. When discourage, remember what Van Gogh said: "If you heard a voice within you saying: You are no painter, then paint by no means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working"

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leippya

    The author of this book is unbelievably kind, and it really comes out in the book. She constantly focuses on the positive, and I'm sure she had to be a fantastic teacher. It's a nice read, if you currently feel blocked it's probably the best moment to get this book. However, if your only focus in life is to sell your writing, this might not be the book for you (although it might contain answers if you're failing to sell). This book isn't about skills or market, it's about *being*, it's about att The author of this book is unbelievably kind, and it really comes out in the book. She constantly focuses on the positive, and I'm sure she had to be a fantastic teacher. It's a nice read, if you currently feel blocked it's probably the best moment to get this book. However, if your only focus in life is to sell your writing, this might not be the book for you (although it might contain answers if you're failing to sell). This book isn't about skills or market, it's about *being*, it's about attitude -- and I took a lot of notes during my reading because so many things felt like a revelation. I find it sort of difficult to apply her advice to novels, to fiction but I still learnt a lot. For those who would worry about the age of this book, it doesn't matter -- it's actually surprising to see how little have changed between then and now. All in all, I recommend reading this book at least once at some point, preferably during one of those moments when you feel down, unsure of yourself and wondering if you actually have any "talent." Brenda Ueland's extraordinary generosity is bound to make an impact.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Brenda Ueland spent most of her ninety-three years as a writer. "If You Want To Write", which was originally published in 1938, is her best-selling guidebook to finding your own creative center and expressing it through lively and memorable prose. Carl Sandburg called it "the best book ever written about how to write." Ueland advises that artistic genius exists within all of us, and awakening it is a simple matter: write about what genuinely interests you, and be honest with yourself and your aud Brenda Ueland spent most of her ninety-three years as a writer. "If You Want To Write", which was originally published in 1938, is her best-selling guidebook to finding your own creative center and expressing it through lively and memorable prose. Carl Sandburg called it "the best book ever written about how to write." Ueland advises that artistic genius exists within all of us, and awakening it is a simple matter: write about what genuinely interests you, and be honest with yourself and your audience while doing so. The book is directed more toward fiction writers than those who specialize in nonfiction, but some of Ueland's suggestions can be applied universally. For example, be passionate about your subject. Otherwise your article or manuscript will be as dry as a newspaper article, and just as forgettable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I'm usually a bit gunshy of "how to write" books, but I thought this one came pretty close to being as good as they get. The focus was on fidelity to the self and how to let one's voice out. I liked the image of Christ as the most creative person to have ever lived. I really liked chapter 10: Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing (to set a good example for the children--menial work at the expense of all true, ardent, creative work is a sin against the holy ghost I'm usually a bit gunshy of "how to write" books, but I thought this one came pretty close to being as good as they get. The focus was on fidelity to the self and how to let one's voice out. I liked the image of Christ as the most creative person to have ever lived. I really liked chapter 10: Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing (to set a good example for the children--menial work at the expense of all true, ardent, creative work is a sin against the holy ghost).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    A must-read for those trying to find their voice in any creative endeavor.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I'm sorry, I know tons of people love this book, but I am DONE reading it (at 56% of the way through it). Here's what I wrote as I read to explain why: "As I read, I can't help but think, "If this woman quotes her students one more time, I'm going to smack someone." Is this a book about writing or a book about saying "Oh goody you're the bestest writer ever and always" to all her students? Please. Spare me." And a little while later: "I'm beginning to this this writer's advice isn't worth having. " I'm sorry, I know tons of people love this book, but I am DONE reading it (at 56% of the way through it). Here's what I wrote as I read to explain why: "As I read, I can't help but think, "If this woman quotes her students one more time, I'm going to smack someone." Is this a book about writing or a book about saying "Oh goody you're the bestest writer ever and always" to all her students? Please. Spare me." And a little while later: "I'm beginning to this this writer's advice isn't worth having. "I have decided that is why all (except great) fiction is so false, has that queer, bogus sound... But the prominent writers have the same sound in their fiction too, Glasworthy, etc. —all, it seems to me, but the great Russians." I want to know what she means by "prominent." Does she mean prominent like Salinger and Fitzgerald... or "prominent" like Meyer and EL James? I can understand thinking the latter are less than grand, but not the former. If she thinks so little of all writers but "the great Russians" then her opinion is of little use to me. I can't be so snobbish as to say "All writing is crap except the stuff random, inexperienced people in my seminars write." What new kind of rubbish is an opinion like that? So they're unaffected, great, that doesn't mean only they can be good. Good writing is engaging and holds a mirror up to mankind saying "well, just look at yourselves already!" [but it's also polished]. I'm very close to giving up on this book...[/rant]” And, with that, I bid this book adieu and move on to better things.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mia Parviainen

    Sometimes I have a difficult time with reading books on writing like this one, for a variety of reasons. Ueland becomes bizarrely metaphysical at times. While I can deal with references to the muses and inspiration personified, some of her ideas, like calling creative power "the Holy Ghost," tread into terra incognita. I feel like I'm being cornered at a party by a strange old woman pontificating about her writing philosophy. Her biases about various writers are equally unusual. She is critical o Sometimes I have a difficult time with reading books on writing like this one, for a variety of reasons. Ueland becomes bizarrely metaphysical at times. While I can deal with references to the muses and inspiration personified, some of her ideas, like calling creative power "the Holy Ghost," tread into terra incognita. I feel like I'm being cornered at a party by a strange old woman pontificating about her writing philosophy. Her biases about various writers are equally unusual. She is critical of writers like Steinbeck and any writing that feels contrived to her. Yet, Steinbeck can go either way--some of his work is emotional, while other works of his fall flat. Her heavy-handed focus on what appeals to her, personally, leaves no room for more recent ideas about writing. She waxes poetic endlessly about Tolstoi (her spelling), William Blake, and Van Gogh. Interesting at times, agonizing at others. To get the general idea of her philosophies, without having to wade through long, rambling passages, I suggest reading the last chapter in the book. She provides a helpful list of her main points. I appreciate her enthusiasm and passion for writing. She does provide readers with some concrete examples of what she considers good writing, or writing that best exemplifies her ideals. Sometimes, she has some good points that I even agree with as a writer--that writing the simply flows in an initial draft, uninhibited can be fantastic and the basis for something wonderful.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed Morsi

    It doesn't really matter when I finished or when I began reading this book. What matters, is that it is a journey into a woman's heart and in that journey, it's also, if you are listening carefully a path to your own heart. For in any good writing, there must be the heart. This book is not so much about writing as it is about how we are imposed certain rules and norms by society and Brenda Ueland honestly lets her dismay for those be aired. She doesn't care about what you think and tells us, if w It doesn't really matter when I finished or when I began reading this book. What matters, is that it is a journey into a woman's heart and in that journey, it's also, if you are listening carefully a path to your own heart. For in any good writing, there must be the heart. This book is not so much about writing as it is about how we are imposed certain rules and norms by society and Brenda Ueland honestly lets her dismay for those be aired. She doesn't care about what you think and tells us, if we wish to write well, not to worry about how it sounds. I relate perfectly to sentences that are so overly poetic, so overly worded and dramatised that their meaning is lost. Some times they have their place, some times not. I have kept this book for years and recommended it to friends who didn't seem to like it as much as I did. I think one of the things you have to be prepared to do with this book, especially if you are already a writer or a journalist for many years as I was when I first picked it up, is to let your armour down. To stop telling wanting to write what you think others want to hear, wanting their acceptance. Just write from the heart and live from the heart. That is the message of this book and that is why it is worthwhile a read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Alonzo

    This is one of those timeless works with tons of good advice about writing. I love Brenda Ueland's philosphy. Here are a few great quotes. The last is my favorite: "I learned...that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness." "No writing is a waste of time – no creative work wher This is one of those timeless works with tons of good advice about writing. I love Brenda Ueland's philosphy. Here are a few great quotes. The last is my favorite: "I learned...that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness." "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." "The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: "Tell me more. Tell me all you can. I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out." And if you have no such friend,--and you want to write,--well, then you must imagine one. "

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paula Cappa

    I discovered this book at the International Miami Book Fair (Greywolf Press). What a gem! Do you want to know how true creative power flourishes? Read this book. It's a writing book, but you won't find anything here about plot, characterization, POV, or structure. This is about the creative process and I couldn't stop reading it. Brenda Ueland has not only a fine intelligence about writing, but she understands creativity better than most writing teachers or workshop leaders who tend to drill mec I discovered this book at the International Miami Book Fair (Greywolf Press). What a gem! Do you want to know how true creative power flourishes? Read this book. It's a writing book, but you won't find anything here about plot, characterization, POV, or structure. This is about the creative process and I couldn't stop reading it. Brenda Ueland has not only a fine intelligence about writing, but she understands creativity better than most writing teachers or workshop leaders who tend to drill mechanics, index cards, and outline theories. I especially like Ueland's insights for the fiction writer who is struggling. She compares creative writing to a river that "will begin to flow through you." She believes in freeing yourself to write. Lots of references to Tolstoy and Blake; fears, love, enthusiasm, the imagination. I've been a fiction writer for years with two books and short stories published--and I have twelve writing books on my shelf. This one is the #1 BEST! I wish I had read it years ago.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jodi Ralston

    This book ranks right up their with Julia Cameron's Artist's Way. Like that author, Ueland taps into who you really are and what you are trying to do and what is blocking you. Everyone can and should write or create. The problem is most of us think we can't. The well of creativity dries up so easily by fears, anxieties, doubts, criticisms, shoulds/coulds/musts. This book teaches you to free your inspiriation and creativity, and by it teaching you to write the truth you want to share, you realize This book ranks right up their with Julia Cameron's Artist's Way. Like that author, Ueland taps into who you really are and what you are trying to do and what is blocking you. Everyone can and should write or create. The problem is most of us think we can't. The well of creativity dries up so easily by fears, anxieties, doubts, criticisms, shoulds/coulds/musts. This book teaches you to free your inspiriation and creativity, and by it teaching you to write the truth you want to share, you realize the books you really like to read are not the artificial ones, but the ones that feel "real." Favorite authors opened up and shared something, gave something of themselves. This book is inspiration, and like motivation ("People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing--that's why we recommend it daily." ~ Zig Ziglar), this book is something I will return to frequently to help keep the well full.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    If You Want to Write, Be My Guest, Because I Don't Feel Like it Right Now. Sooooooo many quotes and excerpts. Numerous quotes and super-long excerpts. I have no problem with either, but I wanted to know what she had to say, and what she had to say was very useful, just far far scantier than expected. Holy cats.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Miller

    I loved this book. It has a lot to offer a writer. I think if a person wants to improve on their writing they need this book on their shelve. It is a very encouraging book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Very inspirational and witty, Ueland has strong opinions she's unapologetic about and is the best of encouragers.

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