If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
As a result of a recent preservation battle to save a 117 year old house in Minneapolis I began looking into the life of a former local author, Brenda Ueland. She was born in Minneapolis in 1891 and passed away at the age of 94 while residing at 2622 West 44th Street. It was this home that caused a controversy because the new owner set his sights on demolition in favor of more dense residential construction. The neighborhood was outraged that the City would let the last remaining tie to Ueland go, altering the area in a significant way. The City Council voted for the developer, against the decision of the Heritage Preservation Commission.
Brenda Ueland was first published in the Minneapolis Journal in 1903 at just twelve years old. This was only the beginning of a long, soul searching writing career that is understood in her most recognizable book "If You Want to Write: a book about art, independence and spirit," published in 1938. At only 127 pages this is a quick read and I would suggest it for anyone, not just those interested in writing. If I were to summarize the book in one sentence it would be do not hesitate to do what you want to do and never let fear of failure or criticism hold you back.
Ueland was very passionate and reiterated this statement throughout the book. It is the work of critics (which are not only professionals or teachers, but family and friends too) that discourage so many artists (writers, painters, musicians) or force their work into a lifeless existence. By writing what you think will please someone, you lose the creativity and imagination that brings it to life.
Beginning on page six she described a group of neighborhood children that spent two or three days consumed in writing and presenting a play to their neighborhood. They constructed the stage, found costumes from their parents clothes, created advertising, and drummed up the audience. What was so striking about this was the fact that my two best friends and I spent our summer the same way.
When Ueland said "but this joyful, imaginative, impassioned energy dies out of us very young," I realized it had for me. When I think back to our production of Titanic, which I had rewritten with my own characters and plot on my bedroom floor, I realized I let the joyful, imaginative, impassioned energy die out. I stopped writing for myself and began writing for others: teachers, graduation assignments, work, and volunteer organizations. I think without realizing it I started this blog to bring back that impassioned energy and joy. I kept trying faster and faster to accomplish a lot of "useless things" which just made me more "dead" (quote ares Ueland's words).
I will try instead to heed the advice of this book and "write from [myself]." In my blog I hope I am following the words of Ueland when she says to write "not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they care to hear it." These are my ideas and thoughts, take them or leave them.