If You Want To Write
Everybody Is Talented, Original and Has Something to Say
The book is actually called "If You Want To Write" and it's written by Brenda Ueland. I bought it on a whim back in 1992, and read through cover to cover several times. My copy is full of underlines and highlights, and I don't normally do that. It is really so much more than a writing guide.
"Everybody Is Talented, Original and Has Something to Say" is the title of the first chapter. The whole book continues on this tone. It does not spend any time on grammar, sentence construction, or spelling. Those things are essential, but basic and really are fairly easy to pick up if you really want to know them. Most of what we need we learned in grade school.
Our Talent Will Truthfully Express Originality
Brenda is far more interested in people writing passionately and honestly. She does not say that everyone is talented and has something to say flippantly. The book was written in 1938 after she had spent many years writing and teaching writing to others. She wrote that she herself had witnessed this fact.
"Everybody is talented, because everybody that is human has something to express. Try not expressing for twenty-four hours and see what happens." (pg.4) I think the way she encourages us to pursue this desire we have to put words out into the ether for all to see is fun, and yet she cuts right into our pretenses, and shows us that we are actually damping our creative output by inhibiting our forms of expression and conforming to some idea of what it should be instead of making it our own.
"Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself." (pg.4 still) We begin life being hammered by our our parents, teachers and so-called friends to behave in a certain manner, to speak using some word and not others, and to always do what we're told. So we get a very clear picture of the person we should be, and we lose who we are. We either try to be that or we deliberately try to be something else, but either way we learn to be something other than ourselves. We learn to express ourselves in manners that do not honestly represent us.
Brenda insists that in order to be a good writer we must find that voice inside us that we lost as children. We must learn to say exactly what we mean in as clear and concise a way as we can, without trying to make anyone happy but ourselves.
Way More Than Writing
Truth be told, I find this book to be far more than a writing book. Brenda Ueland is an amazing woman as the subtitle states plainly: "A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit." I am a creative type person. I am an artist (which is the reason I've begun writing on the internet, to sell art), an actor, and a writer. I must express myself in any way that I can. It's a drive that I have, in my genes or DNA or whatever.
The fact that this book found its way into my hand off a bookstore shelf when I was 28 was a little miracle that had a huge impact on my life. Brenda told me to find my own way of expressing myself. She told me I had been stepped on by people who were equally talented and original, but were afraid of theirs and needed to squash mine to protect themselves.
I needed to hear that, because I saw what others were creating and I couldn't live up to what I saw. I couldn't compete. I needed to know that I was original and talented, but I also needed to be told that I would have to work to discover that talent and originality within me. It takes courage and diligence to overcome those childhood dream crushers, but it can be done.
If I hadn't done that work, my life today would be drudgery. I am a very different kind of person now than I was when I was 28, as we all are or will be, but I like the person I am becoming now. Back then... not so much.