If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

xi – … and finally that Great Murderer of the Imagination – a world of unceasing, unkind, dinky, prissy Criticalness.

11 – Blake used to say, when his energies were diverted from his drawing or writing, “that he was being devoured by jackals and hyenas.”

12 – (William Blake) “I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art. I want nothing whatever. I am quite happy.”

13 – (William Blake) “Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.”

19 – But the moment I read Van Gogh’s letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it.

22 – (Van Gogh) “In a few years I must finish a certain work. I need not hurry myself; there is no good in that—but I must work on in full calmness and serenity, as regular and concentratedly as possible, as briefly and concisely as possible.”

22 – (Van Gogh) “The world only concerns me in so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures,—not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express sincere human feeling.”

25 – … I try not to rail against what I have not experienced myself.

25 – … writing is not a performance but a generosity.

30 – So they (the great artists) dare to be idle, i.e., not to be pressed and duty-driven all the time. They dare to love people even when they are very bad, and they dare not to try and dominate others to show them what they must do for their own good. For great and creative men know what is best for every man is his own freedom so that his imagination… can grow in its own way, even if that way, to you or to me, or to policemen or churchgoers, seems very bad indeed.

103 – In writing one must be bold, free and truthful. Being truthful keeps one from the boldness that means showing off…

112 – And do not try to be consistent, for what is true to you today may not be true at all tomorrow, because you see a better truth.

113 – Perhaps that is why the Russians translate so well, because the important thing to them is what they felt, saw and thought. Life is more important to them than literature.

124 – For in fiction, Chekov said, you can pose a question… but you must not answer it. As soon as you answer it the readers know you are lying, i.e., forcing your characters to prove something.

126 – (Chekov) Out of respect for other people’s ears they are often silent.

135 – (Chekov) “For a lie is even more annoying in a story than conversation.”

136 – If you can at last see it clearly the writing is easy.

156 – And so try this yourself when you write an article. Do not worry about the whole. Write what is next, the idea that comes now at the moment. Don’t be afraid. For there will be more coherence and arrangement in your thoughts than you think.

158 – But this is the point: everybody in the world has the same conviction of inner importance, fire, of the god within. The tragedy is that either they stifle their fire by not believing in it and using it; or they try to prove to the world and themselves that they have it, not inwardly and greatly, but externally and egotistically, by some second-rate thing like money or power or more publicity.

Therefore all should work. First because it is impossible that you have no creative gift. Second: the only way to make it live and increase is to use it. Third: you cannot be sure that it is not a great gift.

175 – Later if you find what wrote isn’t true, accept the new truth. Consistency is the horror of the world.


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