“…Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” Brenda Ueland
These inspiring words led me back to Brenda’s wonderful classic guide If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit. I’m not sure where I first learned about this handbook, but I’m so glad I did! It’s filled with gentle reminders and advice about how to nourish our creativity and write from the heart. A passage to ponder:
“But how to single out your true self,when we are all so many selves? Yes, I know that is hard. I know I have been much puzzled by this, for I myself seem to be so many people, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, a murderer, a whiner, a mother, a simpering lady, an old rip, a minister, a burglar, a lion, a weasel. And all my teaching would go for nothing if, in trying to find your true self, you would begin to strain and celebrate with an anxious neurasthenic frown: ‘Am I now writing with the utmost sincerity? I wonder.’
“No, you must not do that. 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, — provided 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….
“Gradually by writing you will learn more and more to be free, to say all you think; nd at 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 find your true self.
“And why find it? Because it is, I think, your immortal soul and the life of the Spirit, and if we can only free it and respect it and not run it down, and let it move and work, it is the way to be happier and greater.”
“The river is true to itself in all conditions” – a guide on a women’s retreat once said this and I’ve always remembered it. Being true to ourselves – in our lives and our writing — how important this is to our creativity! And yet, it’s simple, but not easy.
Cutting through our habits, our conditioning, our personal history and finding ways to write from the heart and from our truest selves is a lot like peeling an onion. We have to strip away the layers and keep going deeper. It can be so much easier just to write from the surface or things or in a way that we feel will be more welcome and more popular.
And yet, Brenda gently but firmly reminds us that it is in “recklessness and freedom” that we find our true selves and the true gifts we have to share. Write on!
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