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

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4.11  ·  Rating details ·  6,642 Ratings  ·  560 Reviews
But we must try to find our True Conscience, our True Self, the very Center, for this is the only first-rate choice-making center. Here lies all originality, talent, honor, truthfulness, courage and cheerfulness. Here lies the ability to choose the good and the grand, the true and the beautiful.

In her ninety-three remarkable years, Brenda Ueland published six million
...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published June 26th 2007 by Graywolf Press (first published 1983)
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PhilorChelsy
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chelsys-readings
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
...more
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 ...more
Leanne
Jun 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
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
...more
Tiffany Reisz
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sally Maria
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Cindy
Jul 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to write
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 ...more
Julia
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any writer or English student.
Recommended to Julia by: A lady at Barnes & Noble.
Shelves: writing
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
...more
christina
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Darek
Feb 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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?
...more
Polly
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 ...more
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  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers
  • The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
  • Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within
  • The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation Into the Writing Life
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
  • Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer's Life
  • A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life
  • Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Becoming a Writer
  • The Weekend Novelist
  • What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
  • Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives
  • Writing Alone and with Others
  • The Portable MFA in Creative Writing
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process
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Brenda Ueland was a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing. She is best known for her book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.

Ueland was born to Andreas and Clara Hampson Ueland; the third of seven children. She attended Wells and Barnard colleges and received her baccalaureate from Barnard in 1913. She lived in and around New York City for much o
...more
More about Brenda Ueland...
“When Van Gogh was a young man in his early twenties, he was in London studying to be a clergyman. He had no thought of being an artist at all. he sat in his cheap little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much. He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lampost, a star, and he said in his letter something like this: "it is so beautiful I must show you how it looks." And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it.

When I read this letter of Van Gogh's it comforted me very much and seemed to throw a clear light on the whole road of Art. Before, I thought that to produce a work of painting or literature, you scowled and thought long and ponderously and weighed everything solemnly and learned everything that all artists had ever done aforetime, and what their influences and schools were, and you were extremely careful about *design* and *balance* and getting *interesting planes* into your painting, and avoided, with the most astringent severity, showing the faintest *acedemical* tendency, and were strictly modern. And so on and so on.

But the moment I read Van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it.

And Van Gogh's little drawing on the cheap note paper was a work of art because he loved the sky and the frail lamppost against it so seriously that he made the drawing with the most exquisite conscientiousness and care. ”
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“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. ”
90 likes
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