Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Favorite Inspirational Writing Book

I have certain books I go back to again and again to get inspiration when my creative impulses seem to be buried under the tedium of daily routine. One of these is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, published in 1938.

I downloaded it on my Kindle simply because it was free one time, and a book about writing. I really didn't expect it to be worth much, having been written 75 years ago when the world, and especially the writing and publishing world was so very different. I certainly didn't expect it to become my go-to little book when I need a kick in the pants to get back to working.

It's written in such a simple, flowy, free and easy style, it feels like you're sitting in one of her writing classes. And in between such obvious statements as "With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding" there are wonderful little gems like this: “The imagination needs moodling,--long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

Why do we need to idle and dawdle for long hours if we want to write? Because of this: "inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”

It's a short book of just over 100 pages, filled with nuggets of wisdom that are so applicable to the stresses and strains we experience in our modern world, those things fighting against our creativity. I think this is why it has struck such a chord of familiarity with writers today who are joyfully rediscovering Ueland's book.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” --Brenda Ueland

What are your favorite inspirational books, writing or otherwise?


  1. I'll have to download it then. I'm good at moodling.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! I especially like the line about the child stringing beads. One of my favorite inspirational books is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. I also like Natalie Goldberg's books; I always wanted to take a writing workshop with her in New Mexico.

  3. I will try to see if I can download it. Would love to read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. I go to Anne Lamotte's Bird by Bird for shoring up, girl-friend style. I got to Nancy Lamb's book for technical checklists. But I don't have a go-to for everything guide. I agree with the 75 year-old advice from Brenda Ueland. Maybe this is why I love MG and the younger voice of it. The wondrous is integral to it.

  5. I should definitely try that book. There are many times when I need a go-to book to get me in the right mind set for writing. Besides, i can also do with writing wisdom:) Thank you for the recommendation.

  6. I'd never heard of this book. Thanks for recommending it!

  7. Hi,
    This sounds like a book that I would love to read. I will see if I can find it anywhere on Amazon Germany.
    Pat Garcia

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  9. That sounds like a great read - thanks for sharing. I can dawdle and putter for sure...