Words of wisdom to light our way from a classic and wonderful guide “If you Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland:
“It is like this: there are wonderfully gifted people who write a little piece and then write it over and over again to make it perfect,—absolutely, flawlessly perfect, a gem.But these people only emit about a pearl a year, or in five years. And that is because of the grind, the polishing, i.e., the fear that the little literary pearl will not be perfect and unassailable. But this is all a loss of time and a pity. For in them there is a fountain of exuberant life and poetry and literature and imagination, but it cannot get out because they are so anxiously busy polishing the gem.
“And this is the point: if they kept writing new things freely and generously and with careless truth, then they would know how to fix up the pearl and make it good in two seconds, with no work at all.
“Well, I tell you all these things to show you that working is not grinding but a wonderful thing to do; that creative power is in all of you if you give it just a little time; if you believe in it a little bit and watch it come quietly into you: if you do not keep it out by always hurrying and feeling guilty in those times when you should be lazy and happy. Or if you do not keep the creative power away by telling yourself that worst of lies—that you haven’t any.“
Gem polishing—being “anxiously busy” endlessly trying to make something so perfect that it’s “unassailable”—it’s easy to get caught in this seductive trap, isn’t it? And yet it turns work into a grind.
How enlivening is can be to take Brenda’s invitation—to write “freely and generously and with careless truth”—to surrender to the moment and not to worry about perfecting our prose as we all write on!
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