Published in 1938, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland is a rare, insightful treat.
I’m only about twenty pages into it, but already her advice and writing speaks to me. It transcends time and culture to cut at the heart of writing:
Write with truth and authenticity in your heart,
Seek people who want to nurture your skills and talents even if they are nascent.
The following excerpt lays it out better than I could:
“The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: “Tell me more. Tell me all you can. I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out.”
“And if you have no such friend—and you want to write—well, then you must imagine one.
“Yes, I hate orthodox criticism. I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them where they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery. I hate it not so much on my own account, for I have learned at last not to let it balk me. But I hate it because of the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages, that it snuffs out every year. It is a murderer of talent. And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first ones to get killed off. It is the brutal egotists that survive.
“…And so now you will begin to work at your writing. Remember these things. Work with all your intelligence and love. Work freely and rollickingly as though they were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters. And so that you will work long hours and not neglect it, I will now prove that it is important for yourself that you do so.”