Rosa's Reviews > If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
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's review
Mar 06, 11

bookshelves: self-development, writing
Read from January 29 to March 06, 2011

Ueland’s book is a generously kind bundle of encouragement. She wants the reader to know how brilliant and talented they are, solely by merit of being a human who breathes, so that we, in turn, will release more of our untainted creativity, imagination, and raw art into the world — simply said, our “true selves.”

Why? As she explains:
“Why urge everybody to write when the world is so full of writers, and there are oceans of printed matter? ...There could be a great deal more living literature that really talks to people and does not just kill time for them. ...if (as I wish) everybody writes and respects and loves writing, then we would have a nation of intelligent, eager, and impassioned readers; and generous and grateful ones, not mere critical, logy, sedentary passengers, observers of writing, whose attitude is: “All right: entertain me now.” Then we would all talk to each other in our writing with excitement and passionate interest, like free men and brothers, and like people in paradise, whom Dostoyevsky described in a story: “Not only in their songs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing but admire each other.”

You can feel her sincerity flowing on nearly every page, and you believe her without reservation, trusting that she must be right. She’s also unexpectedly funny, yet if you stop to think about that, you tell yourself, “Well of course. How could she not be filled with humor, given all this goodness and generosity bottled up into what she so obviously believes?”

Writing plays a sort of supporting role here, a tool for the creativity we all have within us. It’s not a writing book about technique, though we feel we’re given lots of good advice, and it’s not at all about publishing; it’s about expression for expression’s sake. It’s about honoring your truth, so that writing well will actually happen, and loving that you have your truth to draw from, and draw from constantly, if only you will.

I’ll be looking for a paperback version to reread and keep as one of those books you turn into journal and filing cabinet. This is one of those books you read once through to know what’s there, so you know how to keep using it thereafter, and you use it when you feel you need it.

I have high hopes for the ‘real book’ I find, for the Kindle version was very frustrating to me: It was not prepared well for ereading. The typos are a too-frequent annoyance, and you wonder if anyone bothered to proof it, but what bugged me most was following the reference numbering, something Ueland does a lot of (near the end she explains why she’d never ‘plan’ a book and write it from an outline).
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Reading Progress

01/29/2011
44.0%
02/03/2011
48.0% "Despite all the rave reviews this book has received, I’m finding it can irritate me at times, and is better read in small bites — I do then, enjoy it more. One irritation is the poor formatting on Kindle (spelling, punctuation): Whoever did it for Ueland did her a great disservice."
03/05/2011
73.0% "Enjoying this more now: It was good to put it aside for a while."

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