If You Want to Write

A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
By Brenda Ueland

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2007 Brenda Ueland
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781555974718

Chapter One

Yes, it has made me like working to see that writing is not a performance but a generosity.

I find that I wrote this to someone three years ago:

"Forgive me, but perhaps you should write again. I think there is something necessary and life-giving about 'creative work' (forgive the term). A state of excitement. And it is like a faucet: nothing comes unless you turn it on, and the more you turn it on, the more comes.

"It is our nasty twentieth century materialism that makes us feel: what is the use of writing, painting, etc., unless one has an audience or gets cash for it? Socrates and the men of the Renaissance did so much because the rewards were intrinsic, i.e., the enlargement of the soul.

"Yes, we are all thoroughly materialistic about such things. 'What's the use?' we say, of doing anything unless you make money or get applause? for when a man is dead he is dead.' Socrates and the Greeks decided that a man's life should be devoted to 'the tendance of the Soul' (Soul included intelligence, imagination, spirit, understanding, personality) for the soul lived eternally, in all probability.

"I think it is all right to work for money, to work to have things enjoyed by people, even very limited ones; but the mistake is to feel that the work, the effort, the search is not the important and the exciting thing. One cannot strive to write a cheap, popular story without learning more about cheapness. But enough. I may very well be getting to raving."

And so now I have established reasons why you should work from now on until you die, with real love and imagination and intelligence, at your writing or whatever work it is that you care about. If you do that, out of the mountains that you write some mole hills will be published. Or you may make a fortune and win the Nobel Prize. But if nothing is ever published at all and you never make a cent, just the same it will be good that you have worked.

1938



Continues...


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