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on January 24, 2003
A friend gave me this book for Christmas because he knew I liked to write and told me it was the best book for writing. I was skeptical, but started the book anyhow so I could at least tell him I looked at it. I found it immediately engaging and savored every page, limiting myself to a few pages a night so I wouldn't finish it quickly. The best part is that it is an "idea" writing book rather than an exercise book. There is no stopping to jot down notes or pages with writing exercises. Ueland gets into ideas and the psychology of why we do and don't write certain things. It got my brain churning, and I found myself become less inhibited with a project I was trying to get to the next level on. Excellent book for the experience writer who is feeling a need to break through to some fresh material. Ueland is amazingly insightful and even though it is written in 1938, it does not feel dated.
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on November 7, 2009
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland is an inspirational book about people writing without the fear of not being as good as Shakespeare or any other famous writer. The beginning I found was the most interesting, and the latter half of the book was less. Her thoughts are encouraging and will make you want to write. The most important topic in this book seems to be writing from your true self.

Some of what was discussed in the book includes the following:

Ueland says that everyone is original and has something to write about. If a person writes from their true self - which is quite difficult to do, because people often censor their writing or write what they think that they should be writing - they shall attain the best results.

If you write a bad story, you should write three more stories, and then come back to the first one to see what went wrong. Do not let critics discourage you, because they are people who have never practiced the art of writing themselves.

Do not be afraid of writing and do not become a perfectionist when writing your first draft. When you write whatever is on your mind without changing it and without trying to use complicated words to better your writing, you shall finally be able to write from your true self and be able to write beautifully. Of course you must edit afterwards.

Anyone that has told a story to a child can write a story. Tolstoi said that everything should be expressed in such a way that a seven-year-old boy should be able to understand it.

If you cannot think of what to write, try not to think of it at all. Go for a walk, do other things alone and in silence, and your creativity will flow into you. Write for yourself, not for the purpose of getting published. But do write with an audience in mind, otherwise your story will be boring. If you read your story and any parts drag on, then cut them out.
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on June 11, 2004
This book is just fantastic! I was looking for a book to give me inspiration on my writing and this is it! I wasn't so sure at first, I was afraid of yet another fusty, musty textbook-twin that would give helpful hints but bore me to tears. But from the first page I was hooked! "...most people must break through a shell of timidity and strain." What encouragement! This book proved to me that there are other downtrodden creative people out there, people who have had "contructive criticism" shoved down their throats until it nearly killed them. Plus, the strain of being pressured to "make a living" from your writing. Instead, Brenda Ueland encourages in the most enlivening way to write because you love to! And in her mind this applies to anyone, this is not just a book about writing. It is inspiration for ANYONE who is afraid to follow their true creative spirit.
She says that Van Gogh painted not because it was expected of him or because he wanted to make a profit from it, rather he painted the stars in the sky because he loved them and wanted to show other people how beautiful they are, he wanted them to be seen from his perspective so that others might share in his wonder! How can that fail to inspire all downtrodden sensitive creators?
In this book, Ueland shows how to bypass all negative feedback from others, how to search inside ourselves to find our true motives for creating literature, artwork, whatever we love the most! She is able to bring out the unique creative nature in everyone (for if everyone is different, then everyone IS original!) and in the process make us happy with what we find inside.
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on November 30, 2003
I read this book on a whim and in it, I felt not only inspired by Brenda Ueland's writing, I can read and hear her echo in many of the writers who followed her.
Its amazing to think, for example, that this book was written when my mother was 6 years old back in 1938. Makes me wonder what books are being written THIS YEAR that my six year old daughters daughter, at 41 will say, "Wow, this voice is from 1938? And she is so present to today!"
As a writer and a teacher of writing myself, I have spoken words similar to these crafted by Ueland: "No writing is a waste of time-- no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding."
While the book is written in a sometimes rambly form that makes my left brained side shout "What was the editor thinking when s/he organized this darn thing?!" at the same time I think this exact feature is one which teaches by example as well. Rambly, unorganized, out of order, pieces dropped and not necessarily re-picked up... its ok. Its life. Its ok. As I just quoted "It has stretched your understanding."
My copy is heavily underlined and dog eared... even though it is less than a year old I have gone back to favored sections repeatedly.
Read this one and you will have a brand new " haven't we met somewhere before?" friend on your bookshelf to enjoy for a long, long time.
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on December 10, 2001
Brenda Ueland's treatise on writing, "If You Want to Write," is a valuable addition to the library of those who want to do just that. While the language can seem a bit dated at times, the meaning shines clearly through; clearly she has taken her own advice or writing truly and focusing on the things one cares about or is passionate about. To read it is almost to become hypnotized by her major themes: you are talented, you have a story or an observation to tell, you can write really well if you are true (not trying to be writerly), you need to enjoy the act of writing and be lazy about it, you need to relax and enjoy the beginnings in hazy territory. This is a good book to read to get you back into old habits, or to help writers re-assess their long-held and perhaps erroneous beliefs about what it actually takes to be a good writer. Ueland excerpts student writing to show examples, and the pieces she uses are very compelling, strong and true. I recommend this to writers and as gifts for writers. But I wouldn't suggest it for someone younger than 25. There is something in it that would be offputting for someone too youthful, too inexperienced.
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on September 5, 2001
Reading this book will lead you to different ways of thinking about your writing and your life. The heart behind the words shines through and you feel more like you're having a conversation with a trusted friend than reading a book. "Art is infection," Brenda Ueland titles one chapter and this book is definately art by that definition. She infects you, across the boundry of time as only printed words can, with her enthusiasm for writing and her gusto for life. Throughout, she builds up your confidence and ignites your passion while also telling you that not everything she suggests may work for you. Try it, see if you like it, and if it doesn't help your writing, move on. There are no "oughts," there is only your authentic voice.
Also, she touches on the fact that she wrote this book about writing because that is her form of art. Everyone has the artistic spark within them and you can as easily show your particular passion through sewing, or house building or ditch digging as through writing. While a handbook for better writing this is also a guidebook for a happier life.
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on August 6, 2000
Brenda Ueland was one of my dearest friends. Her wisdom and gentle humor has sustained me through many years. If You Want to Write is an outstanding book on not only how to write but how to live fully -- with grace, joy, humor and compassion. It is "first-rate," as Brenda would say. Once you have found this book, don't let it get away from you. Keep copies handy. One year, I gave copies of the book to my family and friends for Christmas. They all loved it. It soon became one of those books that everyone must read -- for reading this book seemed to make everyone a better person. How is that? Maybe one of the reasons is because it "takes the pressure off" to be a "good writer" or a "good person." Just be who you are in an authentic and joyful way -- and you can't help but be "good." Open the book to any page, and you will find her words funny, creative, loving and truthful --thumbing her nose at all the pessimists in the world.
Brenda had a delightful sense of humor. She jokingly insisted on renaming me "Countess Francesca" because, "Names are very important, and Deborah is just too stern and biblical." This was just her way with everyone -- funny, uplifting and endearing. And her book, If You Want to Write, will make you feel just as special, as if she is sitting right there with you, laughing with you and helping you every step of the way. Enjoy this women's words -- hold them in your heart. Brenda is a rare spirit. Avanti!
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on July 30, 2000
A dear friend gave me this book (scribbling her own words of encouragement on the first page) and it became one of the best gifts I have ever received. I had taken some writing courses that had left me completely disenchanted with the writing process. One teacher's "esteemed" writing bored me (he could actually claim one published novel) and I wondered why the most pretentious writers in our class received the most praise. It was a case of "the Emperor's clothes". I wondered why it was that MY favorite writers in the class were considered lousy students - far from being technically perfect, these lively people wrote the way they spoke. Reading Brenda Ueland's book was a revelation. At last, somebody honest! Somebody who finally said that EVERYONE has something interesting to say. I only wish I had been one of Brenda Ueland's students - impossible, since this book was written in 1938! This book should be required reading in every high school. One need never worry that someone else is a better writer - the point this book makes is: because no two people are the same, everyone's experiences are unique and everyone's writing has worth. So I'll never be a Hemingway or a Fitzgerald, but at least the letters I write to my friends have become more colorful. Thanks to Brenda I am now writing for my true authentic self (instead of trying to please those stuffed shirts who've been policing my words since grade school). If you haven't read this book yet, what are you waiting for? Everyone should be encouraged to write.
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I found this book by accident while browsing through a now-defunct Los Angeles bookstore/cafe. It was the luckiest accident of my life. At that point I had been a professional writer for more than twenty years, but I rarely enjoyed my work, and I felt all of it was disposable in one way or another. At first, reading "If You Want to Write" gave me an incredible, if unfamiliar, feeling of joy and self-confidence. Afterwards, I began to surprise the hell out of myself in terms of what I was able to accomplish. This simply written book states some of the most profound truths about life and creativity I have ever read. Whenever I get stuck on a project I go back and re-read it, and its warmth, generosity, and brilliance always inspire me to go on. It should almost be titled "If You Want to Live", because far more than being a how-to book on writing, it makes an eloquent argument that we all can live creative lives as long as we're true to ourselves.
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on July 25, 2003
Many of the author's references and examples are from her writing classes and her association with other writers, so I guess you can call it a writing book. But, its subtitle is more succint, "A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit." The book answers the question "Why should we all use our creative power and write or paint or play music, or whatever it tells us to do?"
She uses examples from Blake, Chekhov, Tolstoi, Sandburg and other creative writers, and sprinkles in Mozart, Van Gogh, Monet and God. We read much about imagination and creativity, and how our internal and external critics suppress us. She explores how to bring what is inside us all to the surface and to be thankful for it. If your are exploring your imagination and creativity, be it through writing, drawing, composing, acting, programming, entreprenuering or just living life, read this book, savor it and then read it again. You'll like it.
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