(This was another piece from my Seminar for Writers class at Washburn University in 1997. I really miss the fellowship / competition of a writing class. In all honesty, I don’t even remember writing this piece, so it was a surprise when I came across it tonight. I assume this book review was assigned following our reading of the book for class.)
“Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.” (Ueland 4)
Brenda Ueland takes these words very seriously when informing the reader of his/her creativity. All people have creative sides; they have personal thoughts and dreams every day of their lives. Each one of these thoughts is original because the mind of one person was able to produce it. Regardless of whether or not a thought was inspired by some other source, such as a book or movie. The way one perceives the other source is what makes his/her thought original. To express the thoughts or dreams a person has is completely original as long as that person is speaking exactly as he/she feels, and not the way they think others what them to feel.
There is a lot of positive reinforcement throughout Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want to Write. This positive reinforcement can give the most pessimistic person a light to see at the end of the tunnel. Day in and day out, I talk with people about writing, and I hear the same response most of t he time: “I could never write a story.” If only these people could take the time to read Ueland’s book, they would be able to realize how easy it really is to write. All you need to do is express yourself without trying to make up some elaborate work of what so many others call “art,” but may just be confusing piece of clutter that is never really understood, but popular in the “pseudo-art” world.
Ueland speaks in a very person tone, as if she were talking to a friend. Her way of expression is free, open-minded, and careless of the critical point of view because critics do no always understand what goes through each person’s mind. The critic refines himself to the point of a certain view on art and this is how he/she views each work they come into contact with. Ueland states how a critic can make the best writer afraid to open up to paper. This is because many good writers may be shy, withdrawn people that fold once someone says that they are wrong.
As a writer, I feel very optimistic after reading Ueland’s book because I now realize how individual I really am. My thoughts are original and important regardless of how strange and inexplicable they may be at times. Writing should be done for the passion of the art itself, but it should also be done as a therapeutic tool for understanding one’s self and the environment around that person.
“With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding.” (Ueland 15)
This is true with anything written from the depths of the soul. It also gives the reader a new point of view; people like to read stories of everyday life. They can relate to it better than some fictional hero who battles giants and gargoyles.
“Now to have things come alive and interesting it must be personal; it must come from the ‘I’: what I know and feel. For that is the only great and interesting thing. That is the only truth you know that no one else does.” (Ueland 71)
Everyone has the ability to imagine. Creative power is something that each one of us has, but more often than not people try to write or create any kind of art with the sole intention of making money or becoming famous. This is where ambition overcomes creativity, and the artist is forcing his/her self to create instead of letting creativity slowly form. There is no imagination in forcing oneself to do something. Ueland points out that one must spend time daydreaming or pondering some thought before he/she can actually understand it enough to express the idea. Inspiration comes very slowly and discreetly. It is not a bolt of lightning that comes from the sky to enlighten someone.
Once the inspiration comes to a writer, he/she must take full advantage of it. Ueland states that the writer should be “careless” and “reckless” when writing a first draft.
“Be a lion, be a pirate. Write any old way!” (Ueland 64)
The only way to remain enthusiastic about an idea is to express it through your own words and personal style. That is what drafts are for. One may start with one idea, but thoughts of individuals are always changing or growing. By working and thinking more and more, a writer can grow to understand what he/she is writing about. Understanding is what makes a writer free. The freedom to thinking and write can help a person understand the life he/she is living. Understanding is not accomplished through duty or forcing oneself to do something. Understanding is accomplished through being enthusiastic about wanting to come to a realization about one’s life.
“Gradually by writing you will learn more and more to be free, to say all that you think; and at the same time you will learn never to lie to yourself, never to pretend and attitudinize.” (Ueland 111)
Ueland sees writing as a discovery tool for people to come to a better realization of who they are and how special their individuality is. Freedom of expression allows a person to reveal what kind of lifestyle he/she leads and the way he/she views certain aspects of life around him/her. Writing, speaking, drawing, or whatever form of expression a person decides to use should come from within.
(Final note: My professor left me a nice note about the piece at the very end. Ironically, her last two sentences (and this is about a year before I chose, reluctantly, to give teaching a try) are as follows: “I sense you would be a fine teacher. Have you considered this?”
My answer to that question at that point in my life was a resounding, “No.”)