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If You Want To Write
Brenda Ueland
A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
Published by Gray Wolf Press in 1934
Book Review by Bob Matherne ©2002


If you want to write, this is the book to read right after Brande's "Becoming A Writer." The similarities between Brande and Ueland are striking: both are female, both are writing on the same subject, and both wrote their books for publication in 1934. Both are worth reading, studying, and most of all following the directions they give for the free-writing process, the early morning writing, and the setting of writing appointments with yourself. These work, but only if you do them, so either be serious about your writing and do free-writing for a year or admit to yourself that you want to be a writer but you don't want to become one.

Note how carefully the two titles are chosen: Becoming A Writer is for people who want to write and need some hints about getting started. If You Want To Write is for people who want to become writers and need some hints on how to channel their desire to write in productive ways. Both of these writers understand how the unconscious can be tapped by the conscious mind. One cannot find material in either of their books that dated them (except the reference to reducing a meat budget for a household for a year by $3.70). Their psychological insights are as pertinent today as any NLP Master Track graduate might conjure up. One of the major insights for me was that following the process for a long period of time was a prerequisite for judging whether the process worked. There is no other way. Since I had been free-writing for a year before reading these two books, I was in a position to attest to the efficacy of the suggested exercises from personal experience.

The differences between the books are enlightening also. Brande suggests you begin writing immediately when you sit down and Ueland suggests sitting there with pen in hand meditating on what to write until the words come. Both ways work, but not for the same person - you must find a way that works for you and stick with it. You are anchoring in the essentials to your new writing career. It will be as important to you as the infamous houndstooth hat was to the football coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Read them both, one is like a rear wheel drive pushing you ahead, and the other is like a front wheel drive that adds traction while pulling you forward.

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