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If You Want to Write

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading a book titled, you guessed it, If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland. As I’ve been working on my creative non-fiction book over the past year, I have realized that although I love writing, it’s difficult for me to write with a clear, unaffected, honest voice. I think and feel so many things as I begin to write, but I struggle to try to manifest these abstracts into sentences. I find myself hemming and hawing and qualifying my words before I finally get around to saying what I want to.

To remedy this, I’ve been searching for good books about the writing process. I stumbled upon Ueland’s book by accident and have loved every page of it. She argues that anyone has the ability to write well, that it is a person’s timidity, fear, the notion that he must make a certain impression, and ego that often get in the way. Ueland explains that if the author is not being true to herself, readers can detect this insincerity before they’ve finished the first paragraph. On the other end of the spectrum, when the author is forthcoming and direct, it is apparent. The reader can’t help but consume the author’s words.

Every night, after I set the book down beside my bed, I think to myself: “I will be the most truthful person tomorrow when I attempt to write again.  I won’t worry about how exciting my story is, or try to be funny, I will just write. I can’t wait to get started.” However, when the next day comes, I might go along nicely for a little while, but inevitably I hit a wall that no amount of honesty seems to be able to break through. I am hoping it’s one of those things that gets easier with practice, but somehow I have a feeling this isn’t the case. I’m afraid the struggle to find and express truth is an on-going battle, and that one must pick up their sword to fight for it anew each day.

Ueland has found beauty in this pursuit, and in Chapter 2 entitled Imagination is the Divine Body in Every Man, she tells her reader, “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. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing.”  I want that conviction. To hold onto the simple joy of writing as something I do every day to let my soul breathe.

Sadly, her book is coming to an end, and I’m on the hunt for more fuel to keep me motivated. So if any of you guys have recommendations, please do pass them along!

4 Responses to “If You Want to Write”

  1. Trevor says:

    She took the “truth” lines from Hemingway. He was obsessed with true sentences. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”. Read biographies of writers and interviews with writers to reveal their process and in time it might help you find yours. It will certainly ignite you in a way books like the one above won’t. The Paris Review has online a wonderful collection of interviews from many authors. You will find many of the greats struggle(d) too. In fact, most seem(ed) to average only 500 to 1000 words a day, which is nothing, scarcely a page. Stephen King has a great book called “On Writing”.

  2. Jennifer Holcomb says:

    It’s funny how all writers seem to twist themselves into the same shapes. When I’m feeling down on my own “skill,” I like to pick up the author books too. Stephen King’s is really one of my favorites (probably most favorite), even though I’m not a big fan of his work. Joyce Carol Oates’ is good as well. Anne Lamott. Strunk & White. I can’t wait to take a look at the Paris Review now too.

    The issue is not your talent or ability, but it could be your censor. You are a really good writer. You know what to do. Write a lot. Wear the censor out.

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