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books on writing

february 2002

if you want to write brenda ueland
Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say. while I agree whole-heartedly with these words, I thought I would like this book better than I did. as I was reading it, it annoyed me a little, but in retrospect, I will probably read through it again.

not practical writing advice (she keeps promising to tell you how to become a writer who loves to write--she doesn't) but ueland does make a very strong case for the value of art in everyday life.

the writing style is very much of it's time. what it makes me want to do is to teach a writing class, and to get out my gertrude stein and read her all over again.

writing down the bones natalie goldberg
I thought I would like this book better than the ueland, but in fact I like it much less. I know it speaks loudly to some people, just not to me.

it's a book about being a serious writer, and promotes the idea that writers can't live without writing, and that artists are different from other people.

I reject both of those ideas. lots of people are very gifted, but for some reason believe that they are untalented, and so they don't try. succeeding as an artist may be survival of the strongest, but living as an artist is not. a quick look at human history shows that artists do what people have always done: paint caves, tell stories, and weave beautiful patterns into baskets. artists who set themselves up as 'outsiders' are just self-aggrandizing.

ueland's book is stronger because it is focused on using Art to become a serious live-er, a much more important, sensible, and practical idea. truly Living as an Artist is nothing more than mastering the Art of Living. not only is it available to anyone, anyone who sets the Artist's life against the Ordinary life hasn't understood either.

I recommend both of these books only with strong reservations. instead, pick them up (physically) and read a chapter or two to see if they speak to you before buying.

warning: the immediate late-night effect of both of these books was to make me doubt my own writing, and the style of writing I love to read.

rebecca blood
february 2002


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