You know when you finish a book, close the pages, sit back, and can’t get it out of your head for the rest of the day or even the week? That’s how I am with If You Want to Write. I’m saddened not to have read it sooner; it’s exactly what I needed, what any writer, or rather anyone with a creative bent, needs (and the author proves we all have a creative bent, so therefore, this book is for everyone).
With an unconventional take on creativity and the source of inspiration, rather than following a plan of action where you “do this” and “follow that” to ensure great success, Miss Ueland lists one solitary, simple step: Write what is true.
Ueland encourages you to write from the heart because that is where the substance is. Forget the flourishes, the thesaurus, the “way it should be.” Write simply, as though you were writing as a child, and you’ll have created a work worthy of being read.
“…all people have in them this power to write greatly and well, when they express freely and carelessly what is true to THEM.” — If You Want to Write
As a teenage writer, all I could do was compare my writing to others. Each phrase, each adjective, each particular cadence was compared to what others had written, and of course I fell short if only because my writing was not theirs. I would never be a J.R.R Tolkien nor Jane Austen, but I would follow their writing like a blueprint, setting myself up for failure every time that pencil tapped the paper.
I often get caught up in the rules and forget spirit — the spirit of creativity and life. And through this book, Ueland brings you back to the present, like a stark punch in the nose accompanied by an offer of a tissue.
Ueland proves through writing examples of her past students that anyone can write decently, and, with practice, write extremely well by following her advice to write only what is true. It was inspiring to read these samples and be captivated by others’ stories, knowing only shortly before their writing was not all it could be.
This isn’t a book you’ll gloss over and put back on the shelf. You will reread it, mark in it (I never make any kind of mark in books, but I highlighted several passages in this book), and always have it close by. From practical advice that has you smacking your forehead by the simplicity of it to encouragement and inspiration that’ll make you run to your computer to work on your next short story, this is a must read for anyone.
“Just so that you write it with honesty and gusto, and do not try to make somebody believe that you are smarter than you are. What’s the use? You can never be smarter than you are.” –If You Want to Write