Yesterday night, I felt called upon to pick up If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence an Spirit by Brenda Ueland, an old but treasured writing guide that many authors refer to with reverence. Here are some passages that grabbed my heart and mind and made me want to share them with you:
“But how to single out your true self, when we are all so many selves? Yes, I know that is had. I know I have been much puzzled by this, for I myself seem to be so many different people,sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, a murderer, a whiner, mother, a simpering lady, an old rip, a minister, a burglar, a lion, a weasel….
“The only way to find your true self is by recklessness and freedom. If you feel like a murderer for the time being, write like one In fact, when you are in a fury it is a wonderful time to write.It will be brilliant, provide you write about what you are furious at, and not some dutiful literary bilge. ‘Violent Passions emit the Real, Good and Perfect Tones,’ said Blake….
“I have read all of Chekhov now. He is so great, and his letters and his life and what people remember of him is greater. Yet it is consoling that if he did not know all about cruelty, gluttony, cowardice, coldness in himself, he could not have written about them. Great men feel and knoow everything that mean men feel, even more clearly, but they seem to have made some kind of an ascension, and these evil feelings, though they still understand them sympathetically, no longer exert any power over them.
“Gradually by writing you will learn more and more to be free, to say all you think; andat the same time you will learn never to lie to yourself, never to pretend and attitudinize. But only by writing and by long, patient serious work will you ever find your true self.
“And why find it? Because it is, I think, your immortal soul and the life of the Sirit, and if we can only fee and respect it and not run it down, and let it move and work, it is the way to be happier and greater.”
What inspired advice! Who among us doesn’t yearn to be happier and greater? To write from a place of truth and freedom, instead of churning out “literary bilge” as Brenda says puts it so brilliantly? What’s the key to finding this true self? Writing. Writing all the time, in every mood, in every circumstance, in the face of every challenge, every woe, every strong feeling.
How liberating to know that as we write, we shed layers of pretense and move closer and closer to who we are and what we truly want. One more compelling, wonderful, joyous reason to write on!
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