Friday 13 March 2009

Brenda Ueland: If you want to write

I am trying to figure out why this book that was first published in 1938 has had such an uplifting impact on me.

The author, a writer, editor and teacher, who was born in 1891 in Minneapolis and died in 1985, says nothing that is new to me. I guess the joy of reading this book is the joy of discovering that there are other people out there who believe art to be about beauty, about the divine self within us, and who are convinced like me that real creativity comes from the truth within us, from the imagination and love that we all can find within.

Her first chapter heading reads: Everybody Is Talented, Original and Has Something Important to Say
Again and again she returns to this truth. We must not judge, discriminate art in any other way but for the honesty in expressing what is within. She won’t fall for style, education, intellect or anything else.

Imagination is the Divine Body in Every Man is how William Blake expressed it. He thought that we must keep this creative power alive all our lives. It is our duty to make time for its manifestation. Ueland stresses more than once that writing is not the only form of expressing this divine power. It can be expressed with anything that you love doing or making, from painting, making music, dancing, gardening, cooking, sewing. The possibilities are endless, but the expression has to be honest.

The simple thing of cooking comes to mind. People have lost the ability to express their truth in this way today. They eat out, buy ready-made food, or imitate TV cooks.

I have always cooked. For me it is part of giving the love to my family. My adult daughters, who are at university now, still come home for a cuddle and for a shared home-cooked meal that tastes of me, when they are in emotional turmoil. They prefer to eat at home rather than be invited out. My cooking contains my essence and my love, and that’s what they long for when they are stressed or unhappy, or even when they are deliriously happy, because too much luck or good fortune can also take its toll on the heart.

Blake wrote poetry and painted endlessly but he never had ambition, or worried about being published. He burnt most of his work.

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…
Ueland defines the creative impulse, in her case writing, such: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. She promised herself never to fall into those two extremes (both lies) of saying, I have nothing to say and am of no importance and have no gift or The public doesn’t want good stuff.
As writers we might do well to join her in this promise. The majority of us are neither bland and boring nor geniuses but ordinary human beings trying to do their best in making use of the gift they were given.


Sarah Schatz - menus for people with food allergies said...

HI Fatima,
Your writing opens my heart and returns me to a place in myself that loves to create and give forth beauty through my art and cooking. It inspired me and helped me return to why I do what I do and why I love to do what I do.
So often money gets in the way of what we truly want to express and give to the world. While we all need to survive, it is a balance between creating from our hearts and receiving the abundance the world has to share with us.
thank you for your words,

Sabrina said...

Beautifully written, Fatima.