Tag Archives: Brenda Ueland

Practice. Practice. Practice.

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Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Practice. Practice. Practice. If you want to write, you have to make like a Nike commercial and “just do it.”

I write almost every day; most of it is work-related, but I probably average about about 1,500 words. I write mostly about stewardship, discipleship, and faith. Some days I craft articles or draft profiles. Other days I write sermons and blog posts. Once a week I write a reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary. Social media posts are a regular complement to the longer pieces. When I have the opportunity and luxury of choice I write poetry and dabble with fiction. Other writers are far more prolific than I am–and decidedly more disciplined, too. Still I write because it’s part of who I am.

When I don’t write I become cranky, slightly out-of-sorts, a bit moody. It’s the same as with physical exercise. Our bodies need to be active, to move, to stretch, to be strengthened. The same applies for our writing muscles and creativity: Use it, or you just might lose it.

What you want is practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what we write (at least this is my view) at our age, so long as we write continually as well as we can. I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on. — C. S. Lewis

Here’s the thing: writing requires regular, everyday effort. I don’t know of anyone who simply sat down, faced a blank screen or clean sheet of paper and wrote a best-selling novel or a Broadway-bound play on the first go. So I’m grateful for C. S. Lewis’ reminder that every word written carries one further on, and I agree with him that craft matters, that every effort should be keen and thoughtful. Whether it’s fiction or poetry or feature articles or even a letter to a friend (perhaps particularly a letter to a friend), it’s a worthy effort and deserves to be treated as such.

This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original and has something important to say. — Brenda Ueland

It is easy to become discouraged. Some days it seems that no words will come or that those that do spit themselves out are facile or nonsensical. On those days, remember this quote from pioneering writer and free spirit Brenda Ueland in her book If you Want to Write (Greywolf Press). In fact, she felt so strongly that everyone has something important to say that she titled a chapter in the book with those words. If you are not familiar with Ueland or this book, by all means read it.

Don’t be discouraged dear fellow writer. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and keep those words coming. Read good prose and poetry. See excellent plays. Listen to good music. But most of all, WRITE. Every day. Yes. Every day.

I’d really like to hear your thoughts and strategies for hammering out those words. Please share your wisdom in the comment section. Thanks!

Photo: Ramiro Ramirez, Creative Commons. Thanks!

 

 

These are a few of my favorite things…

(Everybody sing now!)

ebooks and websites, some poems and a cool Nook.

music, In the Heights, and Yeats, Joyce, a good book.

Sondheim and Shakespeare, slow jazz and porch swings,

These are a few of my favorite things.

If the plot fails,

miss your deadline,

and you’re feeling blue

Just fire up your laptop and type ’til it’s fine

And then you will feel brand new!

With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, of course! Seriously, as writers we need all the help and encouragement we can get. Sometimes this comes in the form of reading what other writers have to say about the craft. So here they are, my fab five short list of consistent favorites that withstand the test of time. Feel free to share your favorites, too!

All Around Favorite Writing Books–The Fab Five Short List

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

Ueland first published this book in 1938. She was way ahead of her time, and had a wonderful sense of humor. She believed, and I agree, that “everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.” If you need a pep talk to help undo the damage of folks who’ve tried to rain on your word parade, this is the book for you.

bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

O.K. I just like Anne Lamott. She has more guts, style, and quirky humor than ought to be legal in any one person. Beyond that, she speaks with an honest voice. and offers some true gems of advice and observation.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

If you read only book on writing this year and have not had the pleasure of reading King’s memoir, then by all means lay hands on a copy or download it to your e-reader or mobile device. However, whenever, and wherever you can–just get it and devour it. There’s a reason King is a successful writer (however one chooses to define that term); he can weave a fine story, clearly loves what he does, and is honest about the craft.  You’ll find the advice practical and unflinching, the prose lively and witty, and the overall effect satisfying and inspiring. Enough said. Read it or reread it and then read it again.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Whenever I want a lyrical shot in the arm to remind me why I do what I do, I revisit Dillard’s slim, elegant reflection. I’ve read the book many times over the years and taught it in many advanced high school English classes; each time is a different experience because I bring my current context and experiences to the encounter. The common thread is that each reading is rewarding and makes me glad I am called to write.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

This classic volume is a must read for anyone who writes, be it for school, work, pleasure, or vocation. It will do more for your writing style than almost anything else I can think of besides relentless practice. My very favorite gem from this book is found on page 35 of the third edition and involves my hometown newspapers and the unintended result of a poor hyphen choice. Check it out, you’re sure to have a chuckle (and if you think I need a semicolon to separate the two previous clauses see pages 6-7).

Photo by Bright Meadow used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!