In the 1938 classic titled, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, Brenda Ueland begins by saying, “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” Journalist, editor, and writer, Ms Ueland was also an outspoken feminist and animal welfare advocate. She had multiple lovers and three marriages, she frequently walked nine miles a day, and she set an international swimming record for athletes over eighty years of age. An interesting woman.
I wonder if Ms Ueland would still feel that everyone has something important to say if she lived in 2012 and dabbled in electronic social networking, stuck her literary toe into the Twitter torrent, or subscribed to a blog or two. Would she find Internet posts that cover the most trivial details of daily life valuable? Must the components of every Twitter subscriber’s noon meal live indefinitely in cyberspace? The irony of my mention of this book in my first blog post is obvious. Time will tell if I have my words have meaning, or if they just add to the noise.
It is interesting to note that the copyright page for the 2010 edition of If You Want to Write contains this disclaimer: “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.” These words pique my interest. Do I share the same values that the publisher claims are contrary to what was written in 1938? With this in mind, I will consider this “product of its time” and find out what Brenda Ueland thinks constitutes good writing and why in the world she would encourage everyone to write.